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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    

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Karol SZYMANOWSKI (1882-1937)
King Roger - opera in three acts Op. 46 (1918-24)
Libretto: Jaroslaw Iwaskiewicz, composer
Roger II, King of Sicily - Wojtek Drabowicz (bar)
Roxana - Olga Pasiecznik (sop)
Edrisi, Arab Sage - Krzystof Szmyt (ten)
Shepherd - Piotr Beczala (ten)
Archbishop - Romuald Tesarowicz (bass)
Deaconess - Stefania Toczyska (mezzo)
All Polacca Youth Choir/Sabina Wlodarska
Chorus and Orchestra of Polish National Opera/Jacek Kaspszyk
rec. Teatr Wielki - Opera Narodowa, Warszawa, 27-29 Jan 2003. DDD
CD ACCORD ACD 131-2 [79.11]

The recorded history of Szymanowski's pre-eminent opera (the other one is his Straussian shocker Hagith - a Salome ‘look-alike’) has not exactly been thronged with versions. It has however done better than other 20th century ‘one-offs’ such as Enescu's Oedip (2 versions EMI and a Roumanian Electrecord LP set) or Bloch's Macbeth (2 versions, both recentish, Capriccio and Actes-Sud).

In writing this review I have had access to the following sets:-
Roger - Andrzej Hiolski (bar)
Roxana - Hanna Rumowska (sop)
Shepherd - Kazimierz Pustelak (ten)
Teatr Wielki/Mieczyslaw Mierzejewski
Sept 1965
c/w Harnasie - extracts
Olympia OCD 303 [80:56]

Roger - Florian Skulski (bar)
Roxana - Barbara Zagorzanka (sop)
Shepherd - Stanislaw Kowalski (ten)
Teatr Wielki/Robert Satanowski
c/w none
Koch-Schwann Musica Mundi CD 314 014 K2 [80:11]

Roger - Andrzej Hiolski (bar)
Roxana - Barbara Zagorzanka (sop)
Shepherd - Wieslaw Ochman (ten)
Polish State Philharmonic/Karol Stryja
April 1990
c/w Prince Potemkin
Naxos 8.660062-63 [83:23]

Roger - Robert Hampson (bar)
Roxana - Elzbieta Smytka (sop)
Shepherd - Ryszard Minkiewicz (ten)
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and Orchestra/Simon Rattle
July 1998
c/w Symphony No. 4
EMI Classics 7243 5 56823 2 1 [82.40 + appendix - Roxana's aria with concert ending: 4.50]

The AAD Mierzejewski on Olympia was long ago deleted but it still sounds splendidly atmospheric, clear yet not so analytical that it eliminates the mystery. Sadly it is allocated only one track per Act and is split across two CDs - the norm. Regrettably it is coupled with Wodiczko's mangled and much cut Harnasie. No libretto provided.

The Koch-Schwann is accommodated in a double-width case and is without a coupling. It has a good booklet with