Anton Dvorak’s Rusalka a lovely fairytale in song

Live from the Met in high definition, it’s the lovely fairytale Rusalka.

Live from the Met in high definition, it’s the lovely fairytale Rusalka.

Czech composer Antonin Dvorak (1841 – 1904) was celebrated internationally during his lifetime for his chamber, choral, and symphonic music.

His only opera to receive renown beyond his native Bohemia is Rusalka, whose libretto was written by author and poet Jaroslav Kvapil (1868-1950).

The opera takes place in an unspecified fairytale setting and is an example of late Romanticism – containing folklore, evocations of the natural and the supernatural worlds, and even a poignant interpretation of the idea of a love-death.

The story has a strong national flavour as well as universal appeal with ideas similar to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. The setting contrasts unspoiled and “honest” nature (the woods and lake of Acts 1 and 3) with corrupt human culture (the prince’s palace in Act 2). Such a contrast was a favorite theme of 19th Century Romantic artists.

The water nymph Rusalka has fallen in love with a human – the prince – when he came to swim in her lake. Now she wants to become human herself and live on land to be with him.

Rusalka’s father, the Water Sprite, is horrified and tells her that humans are evil and full of sin. But Rusalka insists, claiming they are truly in love and she sings the very famous aria calling on the moon to tell the prince of her love.

Only with the help of the witch Jezibaba can Rusalka realize her dream. But as in all fairytales there is a catch and a surprising ending.

Kristine Opolais stars in the role that helped launch her international career. Mary Zimmerman brings her wondrous theatrical imagination to this fairytale of love and longing, rejection and redemption. Brandon Jovanovich, Jamie Barton, Katarina Dalayman and Eric Owens complete the all-star cast, and Mark Elder conducts.

“Previews of costumes for Rusalka were shown at the last HD live transmission and they are beautiful beyond imagination,” says opera lover, Gabriele Klein. “Rusalka appears in a long gossamer gown decorated with water lilies that makes her appear as if she is part of and rising out of the lake. Imaginative and bewitching costumes of the wood nymphs will also delight viewers in this feast for the eyes and ears.”

Rusalka appears on the big screen at the Salmar Classic at 9:55 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 25.


Salmon Arm Observer