Szymanowski: Krol Roger
One of the most dramatic opening scenes of any opera would have to belong to Karol Szymanowski's Krol Roger. First performed on this day in Poland in 1926, it's heady mix of eroticism and religious awakening have seen King Roger, as it's known in English, gain popularity over the last 30 or so years and rightly so.
Since I first heard this incredible work back in the early 90's I've been a devotee of Szymanowki's mystical and amazing music. He's bold in his use of harmony and texture and it makes me visualise heavily perfumed Mediterranean gardens full of over-ripe exotic flowers. Listen to the Shepherd's Song in Act One or Roxana's Song from Act Two and you will hear what I mean.
He experiments with stylized Arabic music idioms in this lush score full of homoerotic undertones, so it's not hard to understand why it has become popular in recent years with directors and choreographers like Graeme Murphy. Murphy's Sydney Dance Company produced a ballet version of the full operatic score in 1990, excepts of which can be seen here.
It's also well represented in the recording catalogue, with at least four good recordings now available on CD and two on DVD.
The YouTube clip here though is a remarkable production by Opera National de Paris from 2009, with Mariusz Kwiecien as King Roger and Olga Pasichnyk and his wife Roxana. This is a modern interpretation, highly sensous but doesn't stick to the Byzantine era setting of 12th Century Sicily indicated in the score. Check it out though, its totally original and this teaser will leave you wanting more.