King Roger


King Roger

Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre


Watching his wife dance under the stranger's spell, King Roger struggles with his own passions: choosing between the sacred love he knows and the sensuous, glittering realm of hedonism the shepherd preaches.

Szymanowski's intoxicating, iridescent music is rarely heard on the opera stage, so don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear a 20th-century Polish masterpiece.

This co-production with the Royal Opera House was first performed in Covent Garden and was "rapturously acclaimed" by critics who described Kasper Holten's arresting staging as a "major artistic triumph" (The Telegraph, UK).

Andrea Molino conducts a cast led by Arthur Espiritu, Lorina Gore and Michael Honeyman.


The shepherd's voice is lyrical, exotic, heady with the promise of eternal ecstasy. His message is dangerously seductive, and one by one, the people abandon themselves to the worship of desire, pure in its profanity.

Enjoy dinner before the opera at Arts Centre Melbourne

A couple dines at Arts Centre Melbourne before the operaAllow us to make your dinner reservation for you: 6pm at Café Vic. You'll be served a themed three-course menu for just $75, including matched wine. View the menu.

Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting tickets.

Conductor Andrea Molino
Director Kasper Holten
Revival Director Matthew Barclay
Set & Costume Designer Steffen Aarfing
Lighting Designer Jon Clark
Video Designer Luke Halls
Choreographer Cathy Marston
Fight Coordinator Nigel Poulton
King Roger Michael Honeyman
Roxana Lorina Gore
Shepherd Arthur Espiritu
Edrisi James Egglestone
Deaconess Dominica Matthews
Archiereios Gennadi Dubinsky

Opera Australia Chorus

Orchestra Victoria

A co-production with the Royal Opera House and Dallas Opera.

Running time: approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes, including one interval.

Production Partner

Phillip Bacon Galleries

Organised in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of the Polska Music program.

King Roger

Act I

The Archbishop leads the celebration of Mass in the cathedral. He and the Deaconess demand that King Roger punish a new self-proclaimed prophet. Roger’s advisor Edrisi confirms to the King that the man, who calls himself the Shepherd, is preaching a new, strange faith. Queen Roxana urges King Roger to summon the Shepherd to explain himself.

The Shepherd arrives and seductively describes his god. Roxana is drawn to the Shepherd’s preachings of freedom, pleasure and love and urges Roger to listen, but everyone else calls for his execution for blasphemy. Roger is confused, but after changing his mind several times, he lets the Shepherd go free and asks him to return for a private meeting that night.

Act II

As King Roger waits for the Shepherd, he confides to Edrisi his anxiety and confusion. Edrisi suggests that Roger should enjoy Roxana’s embraces, which he has not sought for a long time. Roxana, longing for this, urges Roger to listen to the Shepherd’s philosophy of pleasure. The Shepherd arrives and describes his faith, urging everyone to let go of all inhibitions and only seek pleasure. He lets loose an orgiastic dance, and an ecstatic crowd gathers. King Roger tries to stop the Shepherd, but in vain. Roxana is drawn into the ecstasy of the crowd and leaves with the Shepherd and his followers. Roger knows he has to follow.


Act Ill

It is now King Roger who is on trial, as the Shepherd has taken over power. Roger wanders among ruins searching for Roxana; Edrisi repeatedly asks him to call out for her. Roxana appears and urges King Roger to surrender to the Shepherd.

The Shepherd appears, now revealing his true face as the god of pure pleasure, and demanding that everyone abandon all caution to follow him blindly. His followers ignite an immense sacrificial bonfire. But Roger resists the Shepherd. As dawn breaks, Roger feels hopeful to build a new life rather than submit to the Shepherd.

Kasper Holten

Synopsis reprinted by permission of Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

"This superb production is a rare chance to see something rich and strange."

The Sydney Morning Herald

"Szymanowski’s score is a voluptuously beautiful, imagina­tively coloured, stylistically diverse masterpiece."

The Australian (subscription required)

"Szymanowski rarity marries spectacular staging with an intense erotic charge."

Limelight Magazine

"Michael Honeyman is outstanding as King Roger."

Stage Whispers

Be tempted...

Allow us to make your dinner reservation: 6pm at Café Vic. You'll be served a themed three-course set menu for just $75, including matched wine.

Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting your tickets.


Smoked duck, pickled grapes, walnut and truffle, petite salad of dwarf peaches
a glass of sparkling wine on arrival


Individual beef Wellington, beef marrow red wine jus, Mediterranean vegetable medley
+ a glass of Cabernet


Summer pudding, raspberry sorbet, meringue stick
+ tea or coffee

Specific dietary requirements can be accommodated, please send us an email after booking.

Published menu is subject to change without notice.
Buy TicketsBuy Tickets
View Cart
0 Items