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The Santa Fe Opera’s most modern sounding offering this season is Polish composer Szymanowski’s “King Roger.”
The piece premiered in 1926, which doesn’t make it the most recently written, but it is years away from the others, in regard to its structure and subject matter.
Szymanowski’s opera is gorgeous and intense, beginning with a choral mass.
The costumes are detailed and sumptuous at first, but as the opera progresses, the costumes shift in the opposite direction to depict the shift in the realm due to the influence of the mysterious Shepherd, who comes in and encourages everyone to follow him to lead a life of pleasure.
At first, the King’s frenzied subjects — including the Archbishop and Deaconess, sung by Raymond Aceto and Laura Wilde — want King Roger to kill the Shepherd. Eventually, even Roxana abandons the King, who is attracted to the Shepherd, but conflicted by his ideas of right and wrong.
The King ends up abandoned by all but Edrisi, his advisor, a role sung quite effectively by Dennis Petersen.
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