Savonlinna Opera Festival (Finland) & National Opera in Rijeka (Croatia)
Karol Szymanowski “Król Roger”
Should culture serve institutions and spread values? Or is its purpose precisely to have no aim beside the sublimation? In this staging of Karol Szymanowski’s opera, the relationship between an eminent king and a messianic shepherd revolves around the tension between a utilitarian and a purely aesthetic approach to art. The story of a Sicilian king’s slow seduction will be staged to speak to current discussions about the role of art in cultural diplomacy and politics, and the need of spirituality and vulnerability today. The Polish composer Szymanowski set his opera in the rich, syncretic culture of 12th century Sicily, where the Norman Christianity of its rulers mingled with the strong Arabic presence on the island and the remnants of Byzantine and Greek civilization. First performed in 1926, Szymanowski’s opera was written in a time marked by growing anxieties about the value of traditional beliefs, the shocking disruptions of modernist art, and a pervasive sense that the ordered world of yesterday was disintegrating into an uncertain and anarchic future. Where the final act of King Roger is often understood as a resolution of opposites, in my staging I would like to expose how Roger in fact faces the impossibility of clear and simple resolutions. With no easy answers at hand, the king must learn to live in a world defined by painful ambiguity. ‘Tragedy is the experience of moral ambiguity. The right is always on both sides and invariably also wrong,’ philosopher Simon Critchley writes in a recent book on Greek tragedy. It is no coincidence that King Roger ends in the ruins of an amfitheater, the birthplace of tragedy.
Premiere: 23 May 2020 (National Opera, Rijeka), 4 July 2020 (Olavinlinna Castle, Savonlinna) | Performances: 26, 28 May 2020 (Rijeka), 9, 15 July 2020 (Savonlinna) | Artistic team: Krystian Lada (concept & stage direction), Didzis Jaunzems (set design), Maarten Warmerdam (light design), Bente Rolandsdotter (costume design), Ville Matvejeff (music direction), with Savonlinna Opera Festival Orchestra | Tickets & Info here