Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
A Fabulous Opera
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 05/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"King Roger was composed during 1918 - 24 with the first performance in 1926, and is something of a self portrait of Karol Szymanowski. It reflects his fascination with religious music, particularly the Orthodox choruses he heard during his childhood and the music represents a break from the musical trends of the time that tended toward neo-classicism. The music shows the influence of the German but it also has moments of impressionism inspired by French music. For me the music of Szymanowski has an exotic sound and with this work, with its re-telling of the myth of Orpheus and Dionysus, is evocative of the ancient world.
King Roger is a very compact three act opera lasting about 80 minutes. The dramatic story revolves around King Roger and a Shepherd who is preaching of a new, unknown god. The Shepherd has had many converts to his new faith, among them King Roger's wife Roxanna. Roger accuses the Shepherd of blasphemy and seeks to punish him. Despite Roger's hostility toward the Shepherd he is also fascinated. He tries to have the Shepherd arrested but the chains break and he scorns Roger inviting all of the faithful to follow him. In the end, the Shepherd reveals himself as Dionysus and summons Roger to follow him. Roger acknowledges the power of Dionysus but remains aloof.
I have always been struck by the opening of King Roger with the atmospheric chorus. The singing and playing by the orchestra make it absolutely thrilling. This recording by the Polish National Opera Orchestra and Chorus has a marvelous cast. Wojciech Drabowicz is magnificent as King Roger and brings out the battle the king is having with himself superbly. Piotr Beczala is equally good as the Shepherd and has a splendid lyrical tone. Roxanne is perfectly sung by Olga Pasiecznik who has a voice that soars and nicely captures the drama of the story. The conductor Jacek Kaspszyk does a wonderful job bringing the opera to life and the committed playing of the Polish National Opera Orchestra is second to none.
The booklet contains photographs of the staging of the opera which indicate a fairly bare stage. For me, this is the definitive recording of King Roger. The CD is a bit pricy but the other recordings pale by comparison. The EMI recording by Simon Rattle does not have the advantage of live performances and some of the singers are not quite up to the challenge. This recording has the advantage of a deep knowledge of the score and committed performances.