Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Rusalka
Radio Broadcast and Live in HD Transmission of Saturday, February 8, 12:55 P.M. (HD), 1 P.M. (Radio)
Rusalka and the Prince at the lake (Fleming, Aleksandrs Antonenko as the Prince)
© Beth Bergman 2014
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Music by Antonín Dvořák
Libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil, based on the novella Undine by
Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Water Gnome bass-baritone, JOHN RELYEA
|| sop., DÍSELLA LÀRUSDÓTTIR
|| mezzo, RENÉE TATUM
|| mezzo, MAYA LAHYANI
Rusalka soprano, RENÉE FLEMING
Ježibaba mezzo, DOLORA ZAJICK
Huntsman baritone, ALEXEY LAVROV
Prince tenor, PIOTR BECZALA
Gamekeeper bar., VLADIMIR CHMELO
Kitchen Boy mezzo, JULIE BOULIANNE
Foreign Princess soprano, EMILY MAGEE
Conducted by YANNICK NÉZET-SÉGUIN
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Production: Otto Schenk
Set designer: Günther Schneider-Siemssen
Costume designer: Sylvia Strahammer
Lighting designer: Gil Wechsler
Choreographer: Carmen De Lavallade
Stage director: Laurie Feldman
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Steven Eldredge,
Paul Nadler, Carol Isaac, Miloš Repický
Assistant stage director: Stephen Pickover
Stage band conductor: Roger Malouf
Prompter: Carol Isaac
Production a gift of The Fan Fox and
Leslie R. Samuels Foundation, Inc.
time and place)
||The edge of a lake
||A park near the
||By the lake
Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
Directed for Live Cinema by:
Barbara Willis Sweete
HD host: Susan Graham
For more information on the broadcasts,
please visit www.operainfo.org.
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This performance is also being broadcast
live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
SiriusXM channel 74.
This performance will be transmitted live, in high definition and surround sound,
into selected movie theaters as part of
The Met: Live in HD
series, and will be shared with
students in more than 150 U.S. schools as part of the Met's HD Live in Schools program.
ACT I. On the shore of a lake in a forest meadow, Rusalka, a water nymph, sits, longing to be free from the world of spirits. Though human beings are merely mortal, she would like to become one of them, because she has fallen in love with a young man who comes to bathe in the lake. Her father, the Water Gnome, or Vodník, climbs out of the lake, warning her of the fatal consequences of such an infatuation, then returns to his element, leaving her in the domain of Ježibaba, a forest witch. Looking at the silver moon, Rusalka asks it to summon her lover. Ježibaba emerges from her hut and, with a spell, enables Rusalka to walk on land, agreeing to make the nymph human. But if she loses her mortal love, she must return to the water, and her lover will be doomed. Rusalka also must remain mute until her love is consummated. Retreating to her hut, Ježibaba brews a potion as a group of hunters approaches. One of them, the Prince, tells how he sighted a lovely apparition on this spot, only to have her recede into the water.
Deprived of speech but given human form, Rusalka comes toward him as he sits by the lake. Fascinated, he embraces her.
Rusalka and Ježibaba (Dolora Zajick as Ježibaba, Fleming)
© Beth Bergman 2014
ACT II. At dusk a week later, in a park near the Prince's castle, a Gamekeeper and his nephew, the Kitchen Boy, comment on the excitement of the forthcoming wedding. They fear the Prince's strange sweetheart may be a water sprite, sent to lure him to his doom. They leave as the Prince approaches with Rusalka. A Foreign Princess, who hopes to marry the Prince herself, finds them and persuades him to lead her back to the ballroom, leaving Rusalka to ready herself for the ball. Dejected, the girl wanders off as her father climbs out of a nearby pond to watch the festivities through a window, fearing the worst for her. Seeing the Prince's head turned by the Princess, Rusalka runs from the hall, regretting having left her element: her lover has betrayed her, and now she is an outcast from both the mortal and spirit worlds. She meets her father, with whom she hides as the Prince and Princess come outdoors. Warmed by the Princess's mortal passion, the Prince succumbs to her. Running up to him, Rusalka throws herself into his arms, but he - now frightened of her - pushes her away. The Water Gnome, crying that the Prince will never escape Rusalka's love, draws her into the water. The Princess coldly tells the Prince to follow his other love into damnation, then leaves him.
The Prince and Rusalka (Oleg Kulko as the Prince, Fleming)
© Beatriz Schiller 2014
ACT III. At sunset, Rusalka sits by the edge of the lake, wishing she could die. When Ježibaba finds her, Rusalka tells how she was betrayed. To rejoin the spirit world, the witch says, Rusalka herself must kill her betrayer. Offered a knife, Rusalka in horror admits she still loves the Prince. As the witch leaves her, Rusalka slips back into the water, where her sister spirits shun her because of her contamination by mortals. As night nears, the Gamekeeper and his nephew approach the witch's hut with a message: the Princess has abandoned the Prince, who is now pining for the water nymph. Rusalka's father, rising from the lake, curses humankind for its treachery and frightens the two men away. The Prince enters in a daze, calling for Rusalka, who appears above the water, calling back to him. He asks to join her, whether in death or in life; she replies she is neither dead nor alive but doomed to wander like a ghost, adding that it is now her destiny to bring him to his death. Saying he cannot live without her, he throws himself into her embrace and dies.
At the park near the Prince's castle (Antonenko, Fleming)
© Beth Bergman 2014
Despite the success of his symphonic and chamber works, Antonín Dvořák (1841- 1904) remained devoted to large-scale choral composition and opera.
Following immediately upon his successful comedy Čerta Káča (The Devil and Kate, 1899), Dvořák began work on his next-to-last opera, Rusalka. The subject, as in a number of his other scores, was drawn from folklore and fairy tale. As musical spokesman for an emergent Czech nationalism, Dvořák inherited the mantle of Bedřich Smetana; like Smetana, Dvořák felt that opera was a good way to reach the people. He did not place great importance on the exportability of his ten operas, with the result that they are scarcely performed outside his homeland - except for Rusalka, consistently popular in Germany and periodically produced elsewhere. In spite of Dvořák's popularity in America - where he lived during his directorship (1892-95) of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, and where he left numerous pupils after his return to Europe - Rusalka was not produced in the U.S. until 1935, and then not by a regular opera company but at Sokol Hall in Chicago.
Dvořák and his librettist, Jaroslav Kvapil, termed the work a "lyric fairy tale," hinting at its deliberate lack of epic or dramatic dimensions. The music reflects the influence of Wagner, whom Dvořák admired, though not without reservations. Leitmotifs and through-composed passages are evident in Rusalka, but its chief strength lies in what Dvořák scholar Otakar Šourek has called "one great song" - Rusalka's Act I address to the moon.
Rusalka had its first performance in Prague, at the National Theater, on March 31, 1901. Although Rusalka's song to the moon was heard at the Met as early as 1912 - when Czech diva Emmy Destinn included it in a Sunday-night concert - the opera did not enter the company's repertory until November 11, 1993, when the still-current Otto Schenk staging had its premiere.
Renée Fleming as Rusalka at the Metropolitan
© Johan Elbers 2014
WHAT TO READ AND HEAR
Kurt Honolka's biography of Dvořák (Haus), published on the centenary of his death, is useful, but Dvořák and His World, edited by Michael Beckerman (Princeton), is a more incisive introduction to the composer. Also of interest to those looking to get acquainted with Dvořák is David Hurwitz's entry in the "Unlocking the Masters" series, Dvořák: Romantic Music's Most Versatile Genius (Amadeus).
Renée Fleming gives one of her best recorded performances in Decca's 1998 set, led with warmth and authority by Charles Mackerras. The idiomatic delivery of the Czech-speaking principals and the Prague National Theater chorus sparks two excellent Supraphon recordings: both the 1952 set, conducted by Jaroslav Krombholc, and the 1961 performance, paced by Zdeněk Chalabala, capture the opera's singular Romantic atmosphere. The 1984 Supraphon recording, led by Václav Neumann, has as its star the luminous Slovak soprano Gabriela Beňačková, who offers the best-sung performance of Rusalka on disc. Piotr Beczala is the Prince on an outstanding recording from the 2008 Salzburg Festival, led by Franz Welser-Möst (Orfeo).
On DVD, Fleming, Larissa Diadkova and Sergej Larin star in a 2002 performance of Robert Carsen's brilliant Paris Opera staging, which moves the action of Dvořák's fairy tale indoors, to a child's nursery; the musical performance, led by James Conlon, is appropriately sumptuous. Chalabala's 1961 Supraphon recording provides the soundtrack for a conventional but highly enjoyable 1975 Czech TV film by Bohumil Zoul (Supraphon), with bass Eduard Haken (who both sings and acts a terrific Water Gnome) joined by a cast of lip-synching actors.
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