The rarest moment in Australian Opera
It’s really not often you hear an opera in Polish, especially in Australia, but Opera Australia took it upon themselves this season to produce just that.
King Roger is the Polish language masterpiece written in 1926 by Karol Szymanowski that takes-on many points of contention for many people, regardless of what you think about opera.
The existence of religion and its whimsically unfounded laws and obligations that constrain life (even more so in 1926) come into question and pose them side-by-side with the carnal life we all want to live (whether we acknowledge it or not).
The story of King Roger in short, explores the struggle of the King’s (performed stunningly by a very much slimmed-down Michael Honeyman) own passions. He is forced to choose between the sacred love he knows and the sensuous, glittering world of hedonism and fundamental desire that is preached by the antagonist in the plot.
Temptation of the life the King’s wife succumbs to and draws-in the entire population is highlighted so amusingly and enticingly by able bodied, Dionysian faceless dancers, smothered in dirt who girate, ooze and flow over one another to emulate the turmoil or temptation.
The libretto was written at a time that was tumultuous in the history of Poland. The Bolshevik revolution threw the region into chaos and Szymanowksi was waging a war within himself and society as a gay man in an era that did not accept such ‘sin’.
Needless to say, he had enough fodder on the backburner to fuel the story and uncover many a discourse going on societally and internally.
In many ways, the incredibly masterful Sydney Oper Orchestra, conducted by Andrea Molino reflect that hectic dialogue ongoing in the head of the King. It took Szymanowski six years to finish, so there’s a lot of musical development, influenced by many outside factors that he had to account for!
Group the struggles of the lead character, the musical array and the fact that Opera Australia’s talented set designer, Steffen Aarfing decided to centre it all inside of a gigantic 8-metre capitular effigy of King Roger’s own that took front-and-centre stage, the overall message is received loud and clear: rules or desires?
King Roger is on at the Sydney Opera House from 20 January to 15 February 2017, then moves to the Melbourne Arts Centre from 19-27 May. See more here.
Try before you buy? Here’s the opening:
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