When Rusalka, a water nymph, falls in love with a mortal she strikes a terrible bargain with the witch Ježibaba to gain mortality herself.
Antonín Dvorák’s lyric fairytale had its premiere in 1901 at the Czech National Theatre in Prague. It was a great success and has remained in the theatre’s repertory ever since: the total number of performances today has passed 2,000. Initially slow to build in popularity in the rest of Europe, Rusalka is now regularly performed worldwide. Poet Jaroslav Kvapil drew on a range of sources for the libretto, including ‘The Little Mermaid’ by Hans Christian Andersen and ‘Undine’ by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué.
Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito’s production combines kitsch modern designs and religious imagery to highlight themes of innocence, experience and sexuality. The violation of the natural world is vividly evoked in Act III as Rusalka’s forest glade is turned into a seedy brothel. The inventive staging provides a powerful backdrop for Dvorák’s score. Moments of exquisite lyricism, such as Rusalka’s famous ‘Song to the Moon’ and the Prince’s Act I aria, are blended with earthy, folk-derived dances.
News and features
27 February 2012
The Director of The Royal Opera offers his thoughts on a new production, which opens here this week.