Szymanowski: Hagith

COMPOSERS: Szymanowski
ALBUM TITLE: Szymanowski
WORKS: Hagith
PERFORMER: Wioletta Chodowicz, Taras Ivanic, Adam Zdunikowski, Wiktor Gorelikow, Maciej Kryzsztyniak; Wroclaw Opera chorus & Orchestra/Tomasz Szreder; dir. Michal Znaniecki (wroclaw 2007)
Hagith, Szymanowski’s second opera, tells a story of near unremitting gloom. In this allegorical tale of powere and brutality, the heroine, Hagith is forced to sacrifice herself in order to save a diseased and ancient king deperately clinging to life and doggedly refusing to make way for his young successor. Composed in 1913, it lacks the inspired, generoud lyricism and superb dramatic timing of Kind Roger completed some ten years later. As in BArtok’s nearly contemporary Duke Bluebeard’s castle, the action moves slowly, but Szymanowski does not match the Hungarian composer’s hypnotic ability to hold attention. Nevertheless, there is much to admire, not least the ravishing music associated with Hagith herself. There are no truly outstanding performances here, although Taras Ivaniv certainly throws himself into the role of the grisly old king and Wioletta Chodowicz is vocally attractive as Hagith. Conductor Tomasz Szreder secures a fine performance from the orchestra but the chorus is less dependable in the earlier scenes with some poor intonation. The production, workmanlike rather than inspired, is filmed without fussy gimmicks, but Hagith certainly needs more advocacy than is apparent here.