Kasper Holten presents a new production of Karol Szymanowski’s sumptuously scored opera Król Roger (King Roger).

A meditation on identity and desire, Król Roger tells the story of a mysterious shepherd who is brought before the title character. The church officials want him punished for his heretical preaching, but Roger’s queen Roxana pleads with the king to let the shepherd speak first.

Szymanowski’s second and final opera, Król Roger is in part inspired by Euripides’ The Bacchae, in which King Pentheus attempts to suppress the hedonistic worship of Bacchus but ultimately succumbs to his temptation and is destroyed in a bloody frenzy.

The opera’s three short acts – commonly called the Byzantine, the Oriental and the Hellenic – incorporate distinct musical styles, with passages of exquisite lyricism and thrilling writing throughout.

Holten’s new production, which marks the Royal Opera’s first, finds in Roger’s indecision an expression of the struggle we all face: the struggle between intelligence and instinct in what is the innate duality of human nature.

Learn more about London operas within the West End.

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