A new, highly acclaimed production of Szymanowski’s King Roger will have its Melbourne premiere tonight, offering audiences a rare opportunity to experience an extraordinary piece of work that is being performed for the first time in Australia in 2017.
The opera traces the enlightenment of the Christian King Roger II by a young shepherd who represents pagan principles. The shepherd’s voice is seen as lyrical and exotic, his message is dangerously seductive, and one by one, the people abandon themselves to the worship of desire, pure in its profanity. King Roger struggles with his own passions: choosing between the sacred love he knows and the sensuous, glittering realm of hedonism preached by the shepherd.
Szymanowski’s intoxicating, iridescent music is rarely heard on the opera stage so this is a highly anticipated staging of a 20th-century Polish masterpiece. A co-production with the Royal Opera House and Dallas Opera, it was first staged in Covent Garden where critics described director Kasper Holten’s arresting staging as a “major artistic triumph” (The Telegraph, UK).
“Composer Karol Szymanowski is simply wonderful. This is the first time King Roger has been performed in Australia and it’s an extraordinary piece of music,” said Opera Australia’s Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini. “Szymanowski was fascinated by the melting pot of people and cultures in the Mediterranean, particularly in Sicily.”
“The Arabic musical influences in the score of King Roger reflect the many parallel and integrated cultures that existed there during the early part of the 20th century. Under the direction of Kasper Holten, who also directed Eugene Onegin for Opera Australia, the company is delighted to continue its association with Covent Garden. It’s a terrific relationship,” added Terracini.
Italian maestro Andrea Molino returns to conduct a brilliant cast. Singing a Polish opera for the first time in their lives, Opera Australia’s own Principal Artists Michael Honeyman and Lorina Gore play the challenging title roles of King Roger and Roxana respectively, along with James Egglestone, Dominica Matthews and Gennadi Dubinsky.
They will be joined by sought-after Filipino-American tenor Arthur Espiritu who will play the role of the enigmatic and persuasive Shepherd. Adding to the spectacle are the incredible costumes and an unforgettable set under the direction of Danish Set and Costume Designer Steffen Aarfing.
Director: Kasper Holten Featuring: Michael Honeyman, Lorina Gore, Arthur Espiritu, James Egglestone, Dominica Matthews, Gennadi Dubinsky, Opera Australia Orchestra, Opera Australia Chorus Conductor: Andrea Molino Revival Director: Matthew Barclay Set and Costume Designer: Steffen Aarfing Lighting Designer: Jon Clark Video Designer: Luke Halls Choreographer: Cathy Marston Fight Coordinator: Nigel Poulton
State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 19 – 27 May 2017
For more information, visit: www.opera.org.au for details.
Image: Michael Honeyman as King Roger and Lorina Gore as Roxana in Opera Australia’s 2017 production of King Roger – photo by Jeff Busby