Karol Szymanowski (1881-1937), the most important Polish composer
after Chopin, wrote only two operas, the second of which, King
Roger, completed in 1924, is a masterpiece. After decades of
neglect this magnificent work hasbegun to receive more attention
around the world, and this first extended study of King Roger
investigates its origins, uncovers its ideology, examines its music
and documents its history. The book opens with an outline of the
role the theatre played in Szymanowski's career, from his early
operetta, Lottery for Husbands, and the rousing ballet panotmime,
Harnasie, based on legends from the Polish highlands. Intracing the
evolution of King Roger from conception to completion, Alistair
Wightman, one of the leading Szymanowki scholars, examines the
contribution of the co-librettist, Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz, and
serveys the various strands which make up its ideology, from
Euripides The Bacchae and Plato Phaedrus and The Symposium to works
by Pater, Nietzsche, Merezhkovsky and Micinski. He charts
Szymanowski's fascination with the historical background of the
opera, the world of the twelfth-century ruler of Norman Sicily,
Roger II (1095-1154). Szymanowski's own novel, Efebos, written in
1918-19 and only partially preserved offers intriguing parallels
with hisopera. ALISTAIR WIGHTMAN has written extensively about
Polish music of the early twentieth century and his translation,
Szymanowski on Music was published by Toccata Press in 1999.
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