King Roger confronts Dionysus this Sunday on The Lyric Stage.
Karol Szymanowski's King Roger premiered in Warsaw in 1926, and despite accolades down the years, has had relatively few performances. But recent successful revivals with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and at Covent Garden have brought it favorable attention. One critic calls it an exotic masterpiece. Hear it Sunday (11/17) at 8 pm.
The setting is Sicily in the 12th century. It tells the story of how King Roger and his entire court are converted to a transcendent pantheism from strict orthodox Christianity by a shepherd who appears one day, proclaiming a gospel of love and pleasure. The shepherd agrees to be tried by King Roger for his unorthodox beliefs, and wins over the King’s court, and eventually the King himself.
We begin with the trial in act 2. At the end of the act the shepherd is so successful with his case, the entire court abandons Roger and leaves him alone with only his advisor Edrisi.
In act three, Roger himself is won over, persuaded not only by the shepherd but by his wife Roxanna, who has been drawn to the shepherd from the beginning. In a dance, the shepherd turns into Dyonysus, and the opera ends with a hymn of praise to the sun.
The performance is from 1998, and features Thomas Hampson as King Roger and Elzbieta Szmytka as his wife Roxanna, with Simon Rattle conducting the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.