Król Roger review – Szymanowski’s melting-pot opera is a musical treat

It’s almost 40 years since Karol Szymanowski’s only full-length opera has been seen on a London stage. Kasper Holten’s production of Król Roger (King Roger) is also the first by the Royal Opera, and easily the best thing Holten has directed since he became its head of opera.

That doesn’t mean the problems of staging a work that meant more to Szymanowski than anything else he composed – see an illuminating article in the latest issue of Opera magazine for an exploration of that – are all solved. But at least the piece is made plausible on stage, so that the static, oratorio-like sections of the sumptuous score are not as incongruous as they sometimes seem, and its story of a clash between Christian restraint (as embodied in King Roger) and the prospect of pagan, Dionysian abandonment presented by

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