Soon after the Norman Conquest of England (1066 and all that) Count Roger Hauteville of Normandy took control of Sicily. His son, Roger II extended his territories to include southern Italy. A reluctant Pope proclaimed him King Roger in 1130. This King Roger is the unlikely subject of an opera by the Polish composer Karol Szymanowski, first performed in Warsaw in 1926. Until recently it has scarcely been performed anywhere although, in 1991, Graeme Murphy created a full length ballet based on the opera score for the Sydney Dance Company. But in the last 15 years, the opera has received more attention, including a Royal Opera House production in 2015 directed by Kaspar Holten. Opera Australia is bringing this production to Sydney.
By a number of accounts, it is a very striking production. It runs for only two hours and five minutes, including a 30 minute interval between the second and third acts to accommodate a major scene change.
But just over two hours may be quite long enough to tell this rather slight story. Roger was a successful monarch and a devout one. A mysterious shepherd attempts to lure the King into a life of decadence. The shepherd doesn’t succeed but this production does include a number of almost naked dancers who writhe about a lot, presumably depicting Roger’s thoughts in trying out some of the shepherd suggestions. A very Sydney summer idea from January 20; Melbourne from May 19.
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