Karol Szymanowski (1881-1937), the most important Polish composer after Chopin, wrote only two operas, the second of which, King Roger, completed in 1924, is a masterpiece. After decades of neglect this magnificent work has begun to receive more attention around the world, and this first extended study of King Roger investigates its origins, uncovers its ideology, examines its music and documents its history. The book opens with an outline of the role the theatre played in Szymanowski's career, from his early operetta, Lottery for Husbands, and the rousing ballet panotmime, Harnasie, based on legends from the Polish highlands. In tracing the evolution of King Roger from conception to completion, Alistair Wightman, one of the leading Szymanowki scholars, examines the contribution of the co-librettist, Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, and serveys the various strands which make up its ideology, from Euripides The Bacchae and Plato I>Phaedrus and The Symposium to works by Pater, Nietzsche, Merezhkovsky and Micinski. He charts Szymanowski's fascination with the historical background of the opera, the world of the twelfth-century ruler of Norman Sicily, Roger II (1095-1154). Szymanowski's own novel, Efebos, written in 1918-19 and only partially preserved offers intriguing parallels with his opera. ALISTAIR WIGHTMAN has written extensively about Polish music of the early twentieth century and his translation, Szymanowski on Music was published by Toccata Press in 1999.
Szymanowski's King Roger
The Opera and Its Origins