On Saturday, February 8th, the Metropolitan Opera in New York presents Antonín Dvořák’s most famous opera, Rusalka, featuring soprano Renée Fleming in one of her signature roles. On this occasion, the enjoyment of the performance will not be limited to the audience at the Met, for the production is being screened in cinemas around the world as part of the Met’s Live in HD series.
One of America’s most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors, Renée Fleming won the Met’s National Council Auditions 25 years ago, singing the most famous aria from Rusalka, the Song to the Moon. She has sung the title role from the opera more than any other artist in Met history – and is known for her magnificent voice, supreme artistry and compelling stage presence. A recipient of the National Medal of Arts – America’s highest honor for an individual artist – Ms Fleming was also the winner of the 2013 Grammy® Award for Best Classical Vocal Solo. On February 2nd, Ms Fleming became the first classical singer in history to perform the national anthem at the Super Bowl. This production marks Renée Fleming’s first performance for The Met: Live in HD.
Rusalka, Dvořák’s lyric fairy-tale opera, received its premiere at the National Theatre in Prague on March 31st, 1901. A fusion of magic, Czech folklore and mythology, the opera has a score inspired by tunes and harmonies typical of the ancient folk melodies of the composer’s native land. The libretto, by poet Jaroslav Kvapil, is drawn from several sources, including the fairy tales of Karel Jaromir Erben and Božena Nĕmcová, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, and Undine by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué.
The opera tells of a water nymph, Rusalka, who falls in love with a human prince whilst he’s out hunting near the lake in which she lives. According to Slavic folklore, rusalki – female ghosts, water nymphs or mermaid-like demons – are the spirits of girls who died “before their time” and who returned to our world, inhabiting places near to where they had once lived and died.
Wishing to become human, Rusalka sings her soulful but enchanting Song to the Moon, in which she pleads with the moon to tell the prince of her love for him. She drinks a potion given to her by a witch, Ježibaba, despite the warning that by becoming human, she will lose the power of speech, and if she is betrayed by the prince, both of them will be eternally damned. When Ježibaba’s prophecy comes true, and the prince betrays the water nymph, he dies, and Rusalka returns to the depths of her lake as a demon of death.
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is conducted by the dynamic young Canadian maestro, Yannick Nézet-Séguin – Music Director of The Philadelphia Orchestra since the start of the 2012/13 season, and Music Director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, and Principal Guest Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, since 2008.
He leads a cast which includes Polish-born tenor Piotr Beczala, acknowledged as one of the most vocally exciting, impressive, and sought-after lyric tenors of our time. Mr Beczala sings the role of the handsome prince with whom Rusalka falls in love. Dolora Zajick is Ježibaba, the swamp witch; Emily Magee the Foreign Princess – Rusalka’s rival – and John Relyea is her father, the Water Sprite.
Production of Rusalka is by Otto Schenk, set design by Günther Schneider-Siemssen and costume design by Sylvia Strahammer, with lighting by Gil Wechsler, choreography by Carmen De Lavallade and stage direction by Laurie Feldman. The Met: Live in HD is hosted by American mezzo-soprano, Susan Graham, and running time is approximately 4 hours.
More information on this production of Rusalka can be found on the Metropolitan Opera’s website
Rusalka takes place at the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday, February 8th, at 12.55 pm (ET). Please check your local theatres for dates and times from one of the weblinks listed below.