Saturday, June 26, 2010

DVORÁK : RUSALKA

Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 9th of March 2014 at 6  pm
Sunday 23rd of June 2013  3 - 5.30 pm
Sunday 27th of June 2010  3 - 6 pm
Sunday 19th of April 2009 3 - 6.40 pm

2014 
DVORÁK: Rusalka, an opera in three acts
The water nymph, Rusalka, falls in love with the Prince and calls on the witch Jezibaba to make her human. Unfortunately she is unable to speak.
Rusalka............................. Renée Fleming
Vodnik.............................. John Relyea
Foreign Princess.............. Emily Magee
Jezibaba............................ Dolora Zajick
First Wood Sprite............ Disella Làrusdóttir
Second Wood Sprite........ Renée Tatum
Third Wood Sprite........... Maya Lahyani
Gamekeeper..................... Vladimir Chmelo
Turnspit/Kitchen Boy...... Julie Boulianne
Hunter.............................. Alexey Lavrov
Prince............................... Piotr Beczala
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Yannick Nézet-Séguin

INTRODUCTION
SYNOPSIS  
PREVIEW (with pictures)
REVIEW (2014)
REVIEW
REVIEW
LIBRETTO (Czech and Spanish)
LIBRETTO (English)

Rusalka, a water nymph, falls in love with a prince and calls on the witch Jezibaba to make her human, but she is unable to speak.

The heroine is a water nymph; rusalka is the Czech term; not a mermaid, if that species is found only in the ocean, but a sprite of inland seas; her father is Water-Sprite or Water-Gnome.

Antonin Dvoràk (1841-1904) composed 10 operas. The only one of them I have (on audio discs) is “The Jacobin”, set in a Czech town in 1793; the term Jacobin was applied to extreme radicals in the French Revolution of 1789, and two of these rebellious types arrive; the basic plot is about an aristocratic father who repudiates his son because of a misalliance, but reconciliation is finally achieved when the intrigues of a cousin are revealed. Another interesting work is “Dimitrij”, the tale of Dmitri the Pretender, a sequel to Modest Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov”(after a drama by Pushkin). Then there is “The Devil and Kate, which involves an excursion into Hell, which turns out to be not at all unpleasant.

But “Rusalka” is the one we all know, if only from the water-nymph’s song to the moon. It was his last opera (first performed in March 1901, at the very beginning of the 20th century, and everyone at that time knew the century had not started in 1900). Dargomizhshky had already composed a Rusalka (1856), based on a dramatic poem by Pushkin (1832), who also wrote Eugene Onegin (1831), which became the basis for Tchaikovsky’s opera (1879). One thing Tatyana and Rusalka have in common is a polonaise in a ball-scene. What we have is a fairy-tale opera, with the same story as the little mermaid: a water nymph wants to marry a human.

In 2006 there was to be a performance of Rusalka in Christchurch, but it did not happen (because they could not secure the water rights?). Yes, there has to be a vast quantity of hydrogen oxide on the stage, a whole lake full of it. Now, in the English National Opera version that we have watched in our video-opera group, which is described as “highly imaginative”, the inland sea which the watersprites inhabit has to be fitted into a hole in the floor of a girls’ dormitory. Mark Elder is the conductor, Eilene Hannan is Rusalka; John Treleaven is the Prince; we have also seen him in four roles in Candide, and as Siegfried.

I can hear you muttering that this is another of those bizarre productions which are dreamed up by people who have no idea about opera. They set Don Giovanni on a chessboard, to give an example I have seen. Or Madama Butterfly in a brothel all the way through (in Wellington. NZ); and Rusalka had a bordello setting in the ROH in 2012, and they booed it. And I can imagine them putting Lucia di Lammermoor in the Two Towers of New York; or La Bohème with the students as squatters in a public convenience, riddled with HIV, only coming out to get takeaways and booze.

With that ENO Rusalka you could mistakenly believe that you were watching Wagner’s Rheingold: Rhine maidens cavorting, and the dwarf Alberich coming in to steal the gold; but the big yellow ball is the moon, and they are wood nymphs, and he is the Spirit of the Lake (Rusalka’s father). This venerable parent is our own Rodney Macann (president of the NZ Baptist Church), and I am sure that I will work out why he is in a wheelchair, before I die. (I suppose it is because he is aquatic, not amphibious, and can not walk on land.)

[1] Anyway, he is worried about his daughter, who is mooning around, in love with the idea of marrying a human prince. She sings about this unnatural desire to the moon (and at this point she is lolling beside the lake and not sitting on her swing, as a woman panelist in the Metropera quiz reported, erroneously, when praising this production). She seeks help from the witch named Jezíbaba (Ann Howard, as the dormitory mistress, apparently, in London; Stephanie Blythe in NY). Her wish is granted, but the stipulations are that she will not be able to speak, and if the man deceives her they will both suffer eternal damnation. The spell is cast, irrevocably, and the father cries out in anguish. Along comes the prince, supposedly pursuing a white doe, and he senses supernaturalism in the air. They find each other and embrace. Can they sing a love-duet under these circumstances?! He goes off and the family laments.

[2] At the palace (or at the place where the action takes place in the fanciful ENO version) the guests are assembling for the wedding of Rusalka and the Prince. He has no name and she has no speech, and I foresee problems at the ceremony. Will you, water-wench (whose name we don’t know), take N(ameless) as your lawful spouse? And all the congregation waits to hear her say ‘I will’, but it never comes. And there is the matter of producing an heir to the throne: what species of offspring could this couple engender?

In the kitchen there is gossip about the bride’s mysterious origins; a kitchen boy is frightened by Rusalka, and a forester suspects witchcraft (true).

The prince is exasperated by Rusalka’s silence (in the English version he stands over her as she lies on the bed and gives her a blast). No wonder he goes to a visiting princesss for consolation and conversation!

At the grand ball Rusalka’s father appears (Rodney in his wheelchair, but sometimes he is just a face in the water) and they talk about her plight. The prince embraces the princess, whereupon Rusalka clings to him; his plea for help is rejected by the princess; the spirit of the lake predicts that the prince’s predicament will be eternal thralldom to Rusalka. (Enthralling, eh?). One more act to come, in which the fatal kiss ‘transpires’ and he expires.

[3] Rusalka wanders by the lake, disconsolate; the witch reminds her of the eternal curse; the prince’s death can save her. He appears, recalling their blissful meeting. He asks her to forgive his unfaithfulness, offers his life for her, and then accepts the kiss of death.

2013
DVORÁK: Rusalka, an opera in three acts
Rusalka........................ Elisabet Strid
Prince........................... Nikolai Schukoff
Vodnik......................... Anders Lorentzson
Foreign Princess........... Annalena Persson
Jezibaba....................... Susanne Resmark
1st Wood Sprite........... Eva-Lotta Ohlsson
2nd Wood Sprite......... Mia Karlsson
3rd Wood Sprite.......... Erika Sax
Hunter.......................... Jenrik Andersson
Gothenburg Opera Chorus & Orch/Olaf Henzold
(recorded in the Gothenburg Opera House, Gothenburg, by Swedish Radio)

Sunday 27th of June 2010  3 - 6 pm
Rusalka......................... Ana María Martínez
Prince........................... Brandon Jovanovich
Foreign Princess............ Tatiana Pavlovskaya
Vodnik.......................... Mikhail Schelomianski
Jezibaba........................ Larissa Diadkova
1st Nymph.................... Natasha Jouhl
2nd Nymph................... Barbara Senator
3rd Nymph................... Elodie Méchain
Turnspit......................... Diana Axentii
Gamekeeper................. Alasdair Elliott
Hunter........................... John Mackenzie
Glyndebourne Opera Chorus, London Phil/Jirí Belohlávek
(recorded at the Glyndebourne Festival 2009 by the BBC)

Sunday 19th of April 2009 3 - 6.40 pm
Rusalka......................... Renée Fleming
Foreign Princess............ Christine Goerke
Jezibaba........................ Stephanie Blythe
Prince........................... Aleksandrs Antonenko
Water Sprite................. Kristinn Sigmundsson
Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orch/Jirí Belohlávek
Note that Renée Fleming has Slavic ancestry.

Obsolete Metropera stuff
COMPOSER
CHARACTERS
SYNOPSIS
STORYLINE
BACKGROUND
UNDERGROUND
ANALYSIS


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