Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of Rusalka. It was last on stage 27 February—14 March 2012.
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
17 February 2015
Composers have long used magical settings to tell moving, profound and very human stories.
27 February 2012
The Director of The Royal Opera offers his thoughts on a new production, which opens here this week.
Rusalka (pronounced [ruˈsalka]), Op. 114, is an opera ('lyric fairy tale') by Antonín Dvořák. The Czech libretto was written by the poet Jaroslav Kvapil (1868–1950) based on the fairy tales of Karel Jaromír Erben and Božena Němcová. Rusalka is one of the most successful Czech operas, and represents a cornerstone of the repertoire of Czech opera houses. A Rusalka is a water sprite from Slavic mythology, usually inhabiting a lake or river. Dvořák had played viola for many years in pit orchestras in Prague (Estates Theatre from 1857 until 1859 while a student, then from 1862 until 1871 at the Provisional Theatre). He thus had direct experience of a wide range of operas by Mozart, Weber, Rossini, Lortzing, Verdi, Wagner and Smetana. Rusalka was the ninth opera Dvořák composed. For many years unfamiliarity with Dvořák's operas outside Czechoslovakia helped reinforce a perception that composition of operas was a marginal activity, and that despite the beauty of its melodies and orchestral timbres Rusalka was not a central part of his output or of international lyric theatre. In recent years it has been performed more regularly by major opera companies. In the five seasons from 2008 to 2013 it was performed by opera companies worldwide far more than all of Dvořák's other operas combined. The most popular excerpt from Rusalka is the "Song to the Moon" (" Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém" ) from act 1 which is often performed in concert and recorded separately. It has also been arranged for violin and used on film sound tracks.