K. Szymanowski. “King Roger“, op. 46 (concert performance)
Lithuanian State Symphony Orchestra, led by its artistic director and chief conductor Gintaras Rinkevičius, chose an impressive piece for the beginning of its 35th season – the three-part opera "King Roger" by the legendary Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937), enchanting with its world of sounds and musical vision. Presented for the first time in Warsaw in 1926, the dizzying drama full of poetic symbolism depicts the external struggle between ideologies, conservatism and liberalism, Christian orthodoxy and pagan freedom, represented respectively by the church and the Shepherd, who brings the world of feelings, desires and pagan temptation to the King's court. Poetic symbolism plays a very important role in the opera: its libretto is based on the parallel between Christ and Dionysus, as if to combine their opposites, integrate them, create unity and harmony. Among the abundant metaphors and symbols, the world of King Roger's soul, full of the most secret desires and the most painful internal conflicts, emerges in the work.
The plot of the opera includes three acts: "Byzantine", "Oriental" and "Greco-Roman". The first ("Byzantine") act begins in 1150 in Sicily. During a mass in Palermo Cathedral, King Roger, with his wife Roxana and advisor Edrisi, learns about the danger posed to the Church by the pioneer of a new religion, the young and handsome Shepherd. The King orders the Shepherd to be brought to the church and accuses him of insulting God. The crowd demands that Shepherd be sentenced to death. However, the King, Roxana and Edrisi are impressed by the Shepherd's calmness and humility, and decide to release him.
In the second ("Oriental") part, the Shepherd seduces King Roger's wife and courtiers, and they indulge in the intoxicating ecstasy of the dance of love. The King remains indifferent and orders the Shepherd to be imprisoned. But the Shepherd easily breaks the heavy chains and invites all to journey to the land of eternal freedom. Roxana and the courtiers follow him, only the King and his adviser remain in the palace. Finally, Roger abdicates and sets off as a pilgrim in search of his wife and the Shepherd.
The third act ("Greco-Roman") moves the plot of the opera to the ruins of an ancient theatre in Syracuse, where Roger and Edrisi arrive after a long journey. The King summons Roxanne, and she appears, worshiping the Shepherd. They light the sacred fire, and the Shepherd enters the amphitheatre in the form of Dionysus. When the wild dance is over, Roger is left alone to sing a hymn to the rising sun. Did Roger wake up from his dream? Did he choose to reject the ideology of pleasure promoted by Shepherd? Or maybe he started a new life in Shepherd's "land of eternal pleasure"?