Rusalka, regarded as Antonin Dvořák’s most successful creation for stage, is the forthcoming production for Nice Opera. It stars Spanish-American soprano Vanessa Goikoetxea as the water nymph, Rusalka, with Korean tenor David Junghoon Kim taking role of the Prince. French mezzo-soprano Marion Lebégue reprises her role of the witch, Jezibaba, and direction, scenography and costumes are by Jean-Philippe Clarac and Olivier Deloeuil, with collaboration on scenography Christophe Pitoiset.
In early 1900, Antonin Dvořák was looking for a libretto for a new work for the theatre – preferably something based on Czech history. He was given a text written by the poet Jaroslav Kvapil which bore the title Rusalka, (and was based on the story of Ondine – also known as Undine) – a traditional European mythological figure who, according to folklore, gave her love to a human prince at the risk of losing her life should he be unfaithful to her. Kvapil deliberately placed his libretto in the context of a Czech scenario, and the setting of Dvořák’s opera was almost certainly dictated by his well-known love of nature. Dvořák’s Rusalka premiered at the National Theater in Prague in 1901, and although his music was celebrated internationally during his lifetime, Rusalka is the only one of his operas to gain a following outside Bohemia.
In Dvořák’s original staging of the opera, the water nymph Rusalka falls in love with a human Prince when he comes to swim in her lake. Despite the warnings of her father, Rusalka longs to leave her watery world and marry him. She consults the witch Ježibaba who agrees to turn her into a mortal, but tells her that if she joins the world of humans, she will lose her voice. Rusalka accepts this sacrifice, but is soon disappointed, for the Prince leaves her for a foreign Princess.
In this production of Rusalka, Jean-Philippe Clarac and Olivier Deloeuil have brought the old Czech legend forward to the present day, in which the lake is represented by a swimming pool which becomes the focus of the moral dilemmas, broken promises and heartbreaking sacrifices.
Vanessa Goikoetxea is highly regarded in the world of opera as well as a concert performer. Recent operatic peformances include the title roles in Handel’s Alcina at Semperopera Dresden and Rusalka at Liceu de Barcelona, and she has appeared with the Basque National Orchestra and the Bilbao Orkestra Sinfonikoa in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem. This current season will see Ms Goikoetxea take the role of Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci at Opera Limoges and in the title role in Puccini’s Tosca at Fondazione del Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.
David Junghoon Kim has, in recent seasons, made a number of notable debuts at London’s Royal Opera House, with Zürich Opera, Stuttgart Opera and at the Glyndebourne Festival. He has also sung the roles of Rodolfo in Verdi’s Luisa Millar for English National Opera, Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème for the Royal Opera, Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata for Cologne Opera, and he appeared in concert performances of Donizetti’s Lange de Nisida for Opera Rara.
Marion Lebégue made her debut at the Opéra National de Paris in 2016 as Ines in Verdi’s Il trovatore, going on to appear in Puccini’s Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi at the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz, Janáček’s Kát’a Kabanová at the Opéra Grand Avignon, Donizetti’s Anna Bolena at the Opéra de Marseille, Massenet’s Manon at the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, and Bizet’s Carmen at Opéra de Nice, the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse and the Bregenz Festival. She has also performed at numerous prestigious opera house across France.
Also in the cast are Vazgen Gazaryan as Vodnik the water goblin, Camille Schnoor as the foreign Princess, Clara Guillon, Valentine Lemercier and Marie Karall as three nymphs, Coline Dutilleul as the kitchen boy and Fabrice Alibert as the gamekeeper and hunter.
The Nice Philharmonic Orchestra and Nice Opera Choir are led by Elena Schwarz, who is developing regular partnerships with a range of orchestras such as the BBC Philharmonic, WDR Sinfonieorchester, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Klangforum Wien, San Diego Symphony, Royal Philharmonique de Liège, Tasmanian Symphony and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras.
Three performances – in Czech with surtitles in French and English – take place at Nice Opera Côte d’Azur between January 26th and 30th. This SUD Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region initiative is a co-production Régie culturelle régionale, Nice Côte d’Azur Opera, Grand Avignon Opera, Toulon Provence Méditerranée Opera and City of Marseille – Opera.
Tickets are available online.
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