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13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22 November
Karol Szymanowski
King Roger
Opera in three acts
Libretto by Karol Szymanowski and Jaroslaw Iwaskiewicz
Conductor Jan Latham-Koenig
Director, Set and Costumes Designer Yannis Kokkos
Coreographer Giovanni Di Cicco
Assistant Director Giulio Ciabatti
Assistant Set Designer Aurélien Leriche
Assistant Costumes Designer Paola Mariani
Lights Designer Guido Levi

Fondazione Teatro Massimo Orchestra, Chorus, Youth Chorus and Ballet

New production


Król Ròger Wojtek Drabowicz 13,16,18,20,22
Leszek Skrla 15,17,19
Roksana Elzbieta Szmytka 13,16,18,20,22
Simona Mihai 15,17,19
Edrisi Roy Stevens 13,15,16,17,18,19,20,22
Pasterz Ludovit Ludha 13,16,18,20,22
Donald George 15,17,19
Archiereios Daniel Borowski 13,15,16,17,18,19,20,22
Dyakonissa Agnes Zwierko 13,15,16,17,18,19,20,22


Sunday 13 November 8.30 pm PREMIERE
TUesday 15 November 6.30 pm S/1
Wednesday 16 November 6.30 pm B
Thursday 17 November 6.30 pm turno S/2
Friday 18 November 6.30 pm C
Saturday 19 November 6.30 pm E
Sunday 20 November 5.30 pm D
Tuesday 22 November 8.30 pm F


(Click on any picture to enlarge)

Foto di scena dell'opera Re Ruggero

Pictures Franco Lannino ©Studio Camera

Act I
The Shepherd is introduced to King Roger and his court during mass at the Palermo cathedral. Despite calls for his punishment as a heretic by the Archbishop, Roxana, Roger’s wife, convinces the King not to kill him. Roger orders the young man to appear at the palace that night, where he will explain himself and submit to the King’s judgement.

Act II
As instructed, the Shepherd appears at the palace gates. Roxana sings a seductive song which is clearly a response to the visitor, causing Roger to grow increasingly agitated. As the Shepherd is led in, he describes his faith in detail and soon almost the entire court joins him in an ecstatic dance. Roger attempts to chain him, but the Shepherd easily breaks free, and leaves the palace with almost all of those assembled following him. At first the King and his Arab advisor, Edrisi are left alone, but soon it is decided that Roger will join the Shepherd.

In an ancient Greek temple, King Roger and Edrisi rejoin Roxana, who informs her husband that only the Shepherd can free him of his fear and jealousy. A fire is lit, and the Shepherd’s followers commence another dance, while the Shepherd is transformed into Dionysus. As the dance ends and the participants leave the stage, Roger is left transformed by the experience, and sings a joyous hymn at the arrival of the morning sun.


The subject of this singular opera merits special attention, for those who are not yet in the know, to throw a light on  the preferences of the composer as regards the formulation of its scenic definitions. It illustrates a passage of Mediterranean history, in 12th century Sicily, made dream-like and with hallucinatory mythical and pagan images. The background, from our italian point of view, is full of poignant references: it is felt in the subjective expression of the characters, a flash of the first examples of vernacular poetry. Behind all this there is a reminder of ultimate pagan poeticalness ; the fusion of myths; shining alexandrian golden hues,  daringly linked to the gregorian chants which spring up in the ecclesiastical chants of Act one.

Mysticism and paganism are handled by the composer with febrile accents. Disquieting colours, thick with shadow, and a feeling of excitement which he stretches and mixes up between music and scenic movement to intoxicate the nordic essence of the composer with mediterranean gusts of wind.

Many italian images passed through the imagination of Szymanowski: A Sicily evoked by refined aspirations, almost pathological; a total desire of the sun and sea, which assaults the music to the point of dithyramb; and the composite reincarnation of a strange Dionysis stretches out its enchanting image, and also dominates amidst the unexplainable references to a vague christianity.

The disquiet of King Roger, gradually allowing himself to drift in the mythical breeze issuing from the holy man Dyonisis flawed by evangelism; the dismay, again, of the protagonist, amidst Rossanna’s chants (the queen is taken with the holy man’s narrative); amidst the frenzied royal dances of act two, and its conclusive reunion, its pagan resolution (also here, connected to imprecise mystic elements) in that beautiful monologue which the opera is brought to a close. King Roger, both in himself and in the poetic relationship with the other characters, with the surroundings, and with the Chorus, seems to me a valuable autobiographical point.

And Szymanowsky himself, feverish, like a spoilt child, made up of diverse aspirations. The polish composer gives great symbolic value to this character which is at the centre of this work. The poetic styles and aims, before even studying the musical score, find their sum total in the protagonist; in that which comes to represent the complete humanity of the composer.                                                                                                                    

Gianandrea Gavazzeni
 (from “La rassegna musicale” X , 1937 – n. 12, pp. 409 – 415)