Król Roger, Opéra de Paris (photo by Ruth Walz)
What we saw [...] was infuriatingly like [...] a sort of acid trip that went systematically against what was written in the libretto (coauthored by the composer), as mediocre and weak as it is. But since LSD is not something one can take inside the Opéra de Paris, the viewer was thus forced to witness -- eyes wide open, mind lucid -- the psychedelic ravings of the director.Part of the problem was the imagery of the staging and the video playing behind the singers, much of it drawn from Pasolini's film Teorema, with its homoerotic tributes to youth and beauty (incarnated in the movie by the mysterious visitor -- played by, of all people, the young Terrence Stamp -- who seduces all the members of a middle-class family). According to Machart, the audience hailed the end of Gerard Mortier's tenure in Paris with one of the loudest rounds of boos in recent memory, intended squarely for Warlikowski.
It is possible to feel somewhat asphyxiated by the permanent purpleness of the work, which bends under the weight of the gold, stucco, and obscenities of a dionsyiac orchestration that finds its singularity while borrowing from Wagner, Strauss, Ravel, and Schreker. It is beautiful like a Persian carpet, a Klimt painting, going to one's head like an intoxicating perfume, tasty as a platter of sweet and salty flavors. But the composer Arthur Honegger could just as well have reproached Szymanowski as he did Olivier Messiaen about his Turangalilâ-Symphonie, of putting too many spices in his orchestra...
EXTRA, EXTRA: See the production for yourself by webcast from the video site of the Arte channel, my new favorite way to spend extra summer hours. There are no subtitles, so you may want to refer to this copy of the libretto. Not that the libretto will help you understand why Eric Cutler's Shepherd appears in Act III wearing high heels and a huge Mickey Mouse head, forming a conga line with similarly attired supernumeraries and eventually leading them in yoga moves. At the end you can also watch Warlikowski receive the crowd's boos, while he calmly chews his gum.