Performed in the original Czech with Czech surtitles
Premiere on 24th February 2012, Janáček Theatre
The most successful operatic work by one of the giants of Czech music. This exquisite fairy tale, stemming from a wistful story by Hans Christian Andersen, tells of great love and happiness, but also pain, disappointment and despair, which Dvořák’s music depicts with his moving melodies. There are few who do not know this touching story of a water nymph who falls in love with an earthly prince: this work has found a permanent place on the stages of the world’s opera houses. The timeless libretto came from the pen of Jaroslav Kvapil. Dvořák’s Rusalka definitively confirmed his position among the world’s foremost composers. The score overflows with heartfelt melodies, both gentle and tensely dramatic. The fairy-tale atmosphere is full of melodic fantasy and masterly orchestration. The new production is the work of the theatre and film director Vladimír Morávek, who introduced into this fabulous world a distinctive poetry evoking Norse and Celtic mythology. The reviews were enthusiastic, talking of a “very strong, musically engrossing” performance, which was described as “one of the most promising works in the repertoire of the Janáček Opera in recent times” (M. Zapletal, Brněnský deník [Brno Daily]).
Janáček Opera Ensemble and Orchestra of the National Theatre Brno
The moon rises over a lake in a forest clearing and its rays light up the sparkling water surface. The wood nymphs mischievously run into the glade and play around the water sprite. One water nymph (Rusalka) is sad, for she has fallen in love with a prince who often comes to the lake. She wants to become human and yearns for a human soul in order that she may be close to him. The water sprite warns her against worldly things, for he knows well that human love is not for ever. Rusalka has made up her mind, however, and the water sprite sends her to the witch, for she is the only one who can be of help. The witch agrees to turn Rusalka into a girl, but the price is a high one – in her human form she would be unable to speak and, should she prove to be unable to hold on to the prince’s love, she would become a will-o’-the-wisp for eternity. At dawn the prince arrives at the lake. He finds Rusalka and is so taken by her beauty that he brings her back to his castle.
At the castle preparations for the prince’s marriage to Rusalka are in full sway. An unknown princess arrives, and the prince succumbs to her provocative nature and sensuality, which are so different from Rusalka’s cold beauty, that he begins to court her. Rusalka fears for her love and runs to the water sprite for advice. He advises her to fight for it, but it is too late. The prince has completely fallen for the charms of the exotic princess and spurns Rusalka. The water sprite promises revenge.
Rusalka returns to her home lake. She is now a will-o’-the-wisp alluring wayfarers into the swamp. The witch offers her a way out – if she is able to kill the person who had hurt her so much, she would become a fairy once more. Rusalka refuses, for she is still in love with the prince. The prince is not content either. The charm of the princess has soon worn off and the prince now wanders aimlessly around the castle in search of his lost love. He returns to the lake and calls for Rusalka. She appears before him, but warns that her kiss would mean his death. The prince cannot bear to live without her and throws himself into her deathly embrace.