Antonin Dvorak – RUSALKA

UNITEL DVD – Recorded live at the Teatro Real, Madrid, November 202

Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Real, conducted by Ivor Bolto

Stage Director: Christof Loy

The water nymph Rusalka (soprano Asmik Grigorian) wants to be human, especially since she saw in the distance across the lake in which she lives a handsome Prince (tenor Eric Cutle).

Her father, Vodnik, a water goblin (baritone Maxim Kuzmin-Karavaev) warns her that if she assumes a human form she will then lose her voice (the worst of fates for a soprano) and that her happiness will depend on the Prince’s fidelity: should he prove unfaithful, she will be cursed.

Not heeding the warnings of her father, Rusalka asks the witch Jezibaba (mezzo-soprano Katarina Dalayman) to help her walk without the aid of a crutch. We assume this orthopedic device to be a substitution in Christof Loy’s confusing staging for the fish tails all water nymphs are supposed to have.

But I digress.

Now that Rusalka can walk barefoot and even dance en pointe (don’t ask) she is getting married after getting thoroughly groped by the ill-mannered Prince (some more of Christof Loy’s clumsy staging).

A foreign Princess (soprano Karita Mattila) manages to seduce a couple of the wdding guests (male ballet dancers) before bedding down the Prince himself, much to Rusalka’s silent displeasure.

Now that the Prince has broken his oath of loyalty to Rusalka, the curse is on. The hapless tenor is now walking with the aid of crutches (more of Christof Loy’s puzzling staging).

The witch Jezibaba now informs Rusalka that she can be given water nymph immortality by kissing the Prince. But there is one small detail: Rusalka’s kiss will kill the Prince. The Prince gets his kiss. He dies. Rusalka walks back into the lake, no longer a fish out of water.

End of the three-hour-long opera.

All of the above takes place in a set vaguely resembling a large room devoid of furniture. Rusalka spends most of the time in bed, in a white slip. The water sprite sports a three-piece suit. The time and place of the action are left up for grabs. The singing is very good. When it comes to the acting, the principals appear to have been left to their own devices. The orchestra can’t be faulted.

But the stage director…

Rafael de Acha    ALL ABOUT THE ARTS