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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Based on a familiar fairy tale, Rusalka features a beautiful water nymph who falls in love with a human prince and will do anything to escape her enchanted moonlit world to become human. She sacrifices everything to be a part of his life, but her wish comes at a very high price.
Dvořák juxtaposes the mortal and the mythical with beautiful folk melodies and luminous arias, including Rusalka’s familiar and radiant “Song to the Moon.” Sara Gartland, who was last seen at DMMO as Jenůfa, returns to sing the title role.
31 March 1901
Czech (with English supertitles)
Rusalka, a water nymph, wants to become human so that she can earn the love of the prince. She invokes the help of the witch Ježibaba, who agrees to help her on two conditions: first, Rusalka must remain silent, never uttering a word to the prince; and second, he must always remain true. If either of these promises is broken they will both be damned. The water goblin Vodník warns her against the pact, but Rusalka is determined, and when she and the prince see each other, they fall instantly in love.
At the prince’s court, the mute Rusalka is plotted against by the evil foreign princess, who convinces the prince to reject her.
Rusalka is despondent, broken by the prince’s rejection and damned by the witch’s curse. The repentant prince returns to Rusalka. She explains her silence and tells him she can be released by a single embrace, but that it would cost him his life. He urges her to free them both and they kiss; the prince dies and Rusalka returns to the water.
Rusalka assumes a special place in the context of Antonín Dvořák’s legacy as a whole. Not only is it universally recognised as Dvořák’s most successful creation for the stage but, according to many, it is his magnum opus. While the same could justifiably be said of a number of Dvořák’s other works, it is without question that this is a product of supreme mastery which ideally combines an unerring compositional technique and exceptional invention (even by Dvořák’s standards).
Of Dvořák’s regularly performed operas, Rusalka is the “most Wagnerian”. In addition to the intricate work with leitmotifs, this phenomenon is manifested particularly in the way Dvořák treats the orchestral score. The orchestra in Rusalka is at least an equal partner to the vocal roles and, on many occasions, it could even be seen to be the chief bearer of the opera’s expression. This is closely associated with the composer’s instrumentation which, in several places, verges on musical Impressionism. Dvořák in principal uses a traditional orchestra but, through a resourceful combination of instruments or their sections, he creates colourful musical effects which evoke the gentle lapping of waves on the surface of the water, the mysterious sounds of the night forest, and even the reflection of the silver moonlight above the lake...