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Tim Pfaff
Bay Area Reporter, February 2016

…tenor Saimir Pirgu lets it rip vocally. Georgia Jarman is a searing Queen Roxana, singing blisteringly difficult music as if it were Mozart. In the pit, Antonio Pappano is a pagan god. © 2016 Bay Area Reporter Read complete review

Robert Tomas
The WholeNote, February 2016

…by far the finest production of this modernist opera that I have seen. The great strength of Szymanowski’s music is its exuberant, ecstatic orchestral colour, making it more neo-romantic than modernist. …This production will likely propel King Roger into the sphere of interest of the major opera houses in the world. Bravi! © 2016 The Wholenote Read complete review

BBC Music Magazine, February 2016

SZYMANOWSKI, K.: Król Roger (Royal Opera House, 2015) (NTSC) OA1161D
SZYMANOWSKI, K.: Król Roger (Royal Opera House, 2015) (Blu-ray, HD) OABD7162D

An extremely lucid performance that somehow manages to be taut and lush at the same time. © 2016 BBC Music Magazine

Paul Corfield Godfrey
MusicWeb International, January 2016

The orchestra are simply superb, relishing all the richness of Szymanowski’s massive scoring, and the chorus manage what are some incredibly difficult lines with apparent ease whilst enthusiastically entering into the action as required. © 2016 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Neil Fisher
Gramophone, January 2016

The performances are all first-rate, Kwiecien and Pirgu matching each other in endurance and vocal beauty, Georgia Jarman’s Queen Roxana tender and supple in her Act 2 siren song and Kim Begley’s Edrisi as firm a voice of reason as Szymanowski permits in an opera that’s always heated to boiling point. © 2016 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Kevin Filipski
The Flip Side, January 2016

One of the great 20th century operas, Polish master Karol Szymanowski’s compact 90-minute masterpiece is crammed with tautly unsettling music and a strangely compelling story that nods to ancient myths and Arabic musical idioms. Polish baritone Mariusz Kwiecien makes a commanding Roger and American soprano Georgia Jarman nearly equals him as the queen; but dominating Kasper Holten’s fluid staging is the orchestra’s magnificent playing of Szymanowski’s hypnotic score under conductor Antonio Pappano. © 2016 The Flip Side

David Denton
David's Review Corner, December 2015

Karol Szymanowski had established himself as the leading Polish composer of the 20th century by the time he set to work on his most important opera, King Roger. He was a musician who had travelled much in his early years, and it was those experiences that were to direct his thoughts to an opera where he would integrate words, music and stage design to form a cohesive whole. The story, which is set in the twelfth century, is one of temptations placed in the front of King Roger when a mysterious Shepherd arrives and challenges Roger’s unquestioned autocracy in his rule of Palermo, and his strict obedience to the Sicilian Church. The Shepherd preaches a world of liberty, Roger’s advisors urging him to execute him for blasphemy. He vacillates and asks the Shepherd to meet him that evening, and there finds that his wife Roxana is drawn to the Shepherd’s ideas and joins his followers in an orgiastic dance, the Shepherd eventually taking her away. Now the crowds follow the Shepherd, and Roxana urges Roger to do the same, but he renounces earthly pleasures of the flesh and sets out to build a new life. All of this is musically and symbolically meticulously detailed by the composer, particularly the place in which act takes place. To change that design, as we have in Kasper Holten’s new production for London’s Royal Opera House, where he also updates the story to the mid-twentieth century, is musically akin to adding a rhythm backing group to Szymanowski orchestral score. Let us ignore Holten—if you can—as musically you have an absolutely superb performance, the account of Roger, from the Polish baritone, Mariusz Kwiecień, is both powerful and carries a wonderful sense of conviction in creating this mentally tormented character. I guess the composer would have greatly enjoyed the silvery soprano voice of the American-born Georgia Jarman, who was making her auspicious Royal Opera House debut as Roxana, though it is the devil, in the guise of the Shepherd, that is all too persuasive in the voice of the young Albanian tenor, Saimir Pirgu. The minor roles are all equally praiseworthy, though, yet again, it is the conducting of Antonio Pappano that rivets our attention. Since his arrival at Covent Garden the orchestra and chorus have entered into a golden period, and you will enjoy Pappano verbally taking you through the opera as an ‘add on’ track. The film, derived from two performances in May 2015, is a masterpiece in the art of capturing the visual aspects of opera. I have reviewed it in Blu-ray format, but there is also a version on standard DVD, numbered OA 1161D. © 2015 David’s Review Corner

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