Tuesday, February 26, 2008

OMG! OMG! King Roger at Bard!

The 2008/09 opera season is shaping up to be a season of finally experiencing in person operas that are rarely produced but which I've loved as recordings for years. First there was Die Soldaten, which is coming up in July in New York. Now, a recent announcement has me even more excited: Karol Szymanowski's glorious King Roger --or Król Roger for those original language pedants out there-- is being fully staged for five performances by Leon Botstein and his American Symphony forces at Bard College's SummerScape festival.

It's nice enough that King Roger will be presented, but it's a short opera (ca. 80 minutes), so as a curtain raiser, Mr. Botstein will conduct the U.S. premiere of the ballet-pantomine (with tenor soloist and chorus) Harnasie.

I love Szymanowski's music, especially that period ca. 1910-1925 where pieces like the Third Symphony, the first Violin Concerto, the Myths and Metropes piano pieces, the orchestral song Penthesilea and especially King Roger revel in the lush, hyper-chromatic world of Strauss, Debussy and Scriabin. Harnasie underwent a long gestation, from 1923-1931, and in that time Szymanowski's music underwent a stylistic shift towards more folk-based material.

It's also of interest to me that Szymanowski was a gay man, a gay man who lived quite an out life. Of course, he did that mostly away from repressive, heavily Catholic Poland, being quite fond of the areas around the Mediterranean and the youths therein. Closer to home, he was briefly the lover of the 15-year old Boris Kochno, who lead quite a life. Wow, to go from Szymanowski > Diaghilev > Cole Porter's bed!

So, it's off to the Hudson River Valley in August for me. King Roger is in my Top Five Operas I Want To See Staged Before I Die* and as long as the staging doesn't set it on a spaceship or an ocean liner or some other lame-ass Regie konzept, it should be quite a night.

* also: Korngold's Das Wunder der Heliane, Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise (allegedly part of the quite good looking Gerard Mortier's first full New York City Opera season that has canary fancier types sputtering with rage) and Britten's Gloriana.

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