Karol Szymanowski: King Roger (The Shepherd)

Karol Szymanowski King Roger (The Shepherd)
King Roger (The Shepherd)

Karol Szymanowski: King Roger (The Shepherd)

op. 46
Year of composition:
Opera in 3 acts
Karol Szymanowski
Piotr Kaminski; Rudolf Stephan Hoffmann; Geoffrey Dunn (15.12.1954); Josef Frantisek Munclinger
Karol Szymanowski; Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz
SATB Knabenchor: Diskant (Sopran)/Alt
3 3 4 3 - 4 3 3 1 - perc(6), hp(2), cel, pno, org, str
Instrumentation details:
1st flute
2nd flute
3rd flute (+picc)
1st oboe
2nd oboe
cor anglais (+3rd ob)
1st clarinet in Bb (+cl(A))
2nd clarinet in Bb
3rd clarinet in Bb (+cl(A)
bass clarinet in Bb
1st bassoon
2nd bassoon
contrabassoon (+3rd bsn)
1st horn in F
2nd horn in F
3rd horn in F
4th horn in F
1st trumpet in Bb (+tpt(C))
2nd trumpet in Bb (+tpt(C))
3rd trumpet in Bb (+tpt(C))
1st trombone
2nd trombone
3rd trombone
percussion(6): xylophone, glockenspiel, timpani, triangle, cymbals, tam-tam, snare drum, long drum, bass drum
1st harp
2nd harp
violin I
violin II
stage music: 1st trumpet in C
2nd trumpet in C
3rd trumpet in C
4th trumpet in C (ad lib)
à Dorothy Jordan Robinson
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King Roger (The Shepherd)

The complete perusal score (PDF-preview)

Work introduction

Karol Szymanowski’s opera King Roger may be set in the early Middle Ages and make use of the historic figure of the Norman king Roger II, who ruled Sicily during the 12th century, but the material is really about the legend of Dionysus – the heathen cult of freedom, beauty and sensual pleasures in conflict with the existing, Christian order – which was omnipresent in fin de siècle art. In 1914 Szymanowski undertook a journey to Italy, Sicily and North Africa, a journey that was to play a crucial role in his artistic development. His works exude the multi-layered impressions of this journey, which ended in Paris, by then dominated by impressionism.

King Roger at culture.pl

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Special prints

King Roger (The Shepherd)

Karol Szymanowski: King Roger (The Shepherd)

study score
, 120’
Instr.: 3 3 4 3 - 4 3 3 1 - perc(6), hp(2), cel, pno, org, str

King Roger (The Shepherd)

Karol Szymanowski: King Roger (The Shepherd)

piano reduction
, 120’
Instr.: 3 3 4 3 - 4 3 3 1 - perc(6), hp(2), cel, pno, org, str

World première

Emil Mlynarski

Press reviews

But now, after this rapturously acclaimed performance, Król Roger’s power and stature are decisively vindicated, lifting it alongside Bluebeard’s Castle and the later works of Janacek as a masterpiece of the early twentieth-century European sensibility. (Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph, 2 May 2015)

Let’s get one thing straight at the outset: Szymanowski’s 1926 opera Król Roger isn’t a lovely occasional oddity, a rarity whose appeal is largely novelty, or a dust-it-off-once-a-decade sort of piece. It’s that rarest of things, a real and original masterpiece whose worth has been unaccountably undervalued. (Alexandra Coghlan, The Arts Desk, 2 May 2015)

It's a production that honours the score to a level that lifts the spirits. […] And what a score it is – and how searingly Antonio Pappano and the Royal Opera forces deliver it. In one of the great opening nights at Covent Garden everyone gave a red-hot performance … (Mark Valencia, WhatsOnStage, 2 Mai 2015)

What a joy it is to see staged here a work, which, like Janáček’s bizarrely ignored operas, is no longer than it need be, and so handsomely repays attention in every minute of its mere ninety. (Mark Berry, Boulezian, 2 May 2015)

It’s easy to be seduced by the beauty of Szymanowski’s orchestral writing, to wallow in its iridescent colours and rich harmonic palette, and forgive the work’s dramatic thinness and the lack of substance in all of the characters but Roger. […] What the performance confirms, however, is the beauty of much of the music. (Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 3 May 2015)

So this Covent Garden staging, which runs until May 19, was a must-see. […] But what the staging lacked, the score delivered in the hands of a conductor who brought the sensuousness of this music into being. The orchestral sound was ravishing, the chorus strong but supple. (Michael White, The New York Times, 4 May 2015)

Król Roger is in this sense an ideal opera because, as in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, its dramatic content is quite literally heard through the music. And what tremendous music it is, subtly and exotically scored with moments of bewitching beauty and earth-shattering power. (Guy Dammann, The Spectator, 9 May 2015)

The 90-minute work opens at twilight and ends at sunrise, providing a blazing climax with an aria, sung by Roger himself, to the sun. Simon Rattle, Mark Elder and others have championed it as a masterpiece. (Fiona Maddocks, The Guardian, 10 May 2015)


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