Antonín Dvořák

Rusalka

4 October - 30 November 2012
Tour 2012

Entwining elements of a number of familiar fairy stories from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and Slavic myths of lake and forest spirits, to the French tale of Undine, this opera is both fantastical and painfully human. 

Dvořák’s richly expressive music conjures up a world of dark forests and deep lakes. The water spirit Rusalka falls hopelessly in love with the Prince who comes daily to swim in the lake where she lives. He cannot see her and her only chance of becoming visible to him and of entering the human world is to make a terrible pact with Ježibaba the witch. She gives up her own world and loses the power of speech in exchange for the chance to experience the pain and joy of human love. 

Profoundly alien both to the rough, uncomprehending servants at the Prince’s court, and to the socially superior courtiers who surround him, Rusalka cannot thrive. Ignored by the Prince, who betrays her for the Foreign Princess, she is forced back to the lake but can no longer find refuge there either. She forgives the Prince with a fi nal passionate kiss, but Rusalka has loved and lost – for her there can be no redemption.

Rated four stars by the Sunday Express.

Rated four stars by the Guardian.

“This Rusalka is quite a show,” says Classical Source.

“A great Glyndebourne evening,” says Music OMH.

Note: The characters are referred to by generic terms from Slavic mythology: ‘Rusalka’ means water nymph and ‘Vodnik’ water sprite, while ‘Ježibaba’ is a standard name for a witch.

Setting: A lake in a forest; a castle

Act I

As wood nymphs dance by the lake, the moonlight wakens the water sprite, who tries to lure one of them into the depths. They mock him and run away.

His daughter Rusalka, sick at heart, tells him of her yearning to become human. He is shocked to learn that she loves a human being – a prince who comes to bathe in the lake. Her father tells her she must consult the witch, Ježibaba warning her that she will be doomed if claimed by a man.

Rusalka appeals to the moon to tell her lover she is waiting for him. She wakes Ježibaba and asks her to give her a human soul.

Ježibaba informs her that the ability to speak to humans will be denied her. If she fails to win love, she will be forever accursed; if he rejects her, her lover, too, will be eternally damned. Confident of her love, Rusalka agrees.

Hunters approach, among them the Prince, seeking Rusalka. He sends the others away, and sees Rusalka standing silently before him. Unable to answer him, she throws herself into his arms. He leads her away as the other water nymphs lament her leaving.

Act II

At the Prince’s castle, the Gamekeeper and Kitchen Girl discuss events. The Prince has brought a silent female back with him from the woods, and seems likely to marry her; the Gamekeeper hopes that they will be delivered from such sinister magic. Yet there is hope: the Prince is increasingly attracted to the Foreign Princess.

The servants disappear as the Prince enters with Rusalka. Though he is still drawn to her, he complains that she is devoid of passion. Watching them as she enters, the Foreign Princess vows to separate them. She asks why the Prince’s bride-to-be is so silent. As the Prince recalls his duties as a host and leaves with the Princess, he tells Rusalka to dress as befits the wedding ball.

As the ball begins, Rusalka looks on broken-hearted while the Prince dances with the Princess. Her father arrives to warn her that death awaits her back at the lake; she will return eternally damned. As the Prince embraces the Princess, Rusalka acknowledges that he has betrayed her. Rusalka suddenly throws herself into the Prince’s arms, but he rejects her. As Rusalka’s father drags her away, the Prince falls stupefied. The Foreign Princess laughs.

Act III

A moonlit night at the lake, where Rusalka sits sadly. Deserted by the Prince and banished by her companions, she longs for death. Ježibaba mocks her, relenting only so far as to tell her that if she kills the Prince herself, she can return to her former state. She gives Rusalka a knife, which the latter throws into the lake.

The Gamekeeper and Kitchen Girl arrive at the witch’s cottage, seeking a cure for the Prince’s illness, caused by the sorceress Rusalka. The witch sends them packing and Rusalka’s father angrily chases them away.

The dryads return to dance until Rusalka’s father’s tale of his daughter’s undoing causes them to flee.

The Prince enters, once more seeking Rusalka. She appears, warning him that now she can mean only death to him. The Prince asks her to kiss him, to bring him peace. Rusalka finally agrees. He dies. She asks for God’s mercy on his soul and sinks back into the lake.

Words: George Hall

Creative team

Conductor Jakub Hrůša
Leo McFall (14, 23 Nov)
Director Melly Still
Designer Rae Smith
Lighting Designer Paule Constable
Movement Director Rick Nodine
Revival Movement Director Christian From

Cast

Rusalka Natasha Jouhl
Wioletta Chodowicz (8, 13, 26 Oct; 2, 9, 14, 21 Nov)
Prince Peter Berger
Ladislav Elgr (8, 13, 26 Oct; 2, 9, 14, 21, 28 Nov)
Foreign Princess Tatiana Pavlovskaya
Vodnik Mischa Schelomianski
Ježibaba Anne Mason
1st Nymph Evgeniya Sotnikova
2nd Nymph Michaela Kapustová
3rd Nymph Alessandra Volpe
Kitchen Girl Eliana Pretorian
Gamekeeper Gareth Huw John

The Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra
The Glyndebourne Chorus

Audio files: 

Extracts from Glyndebourne CD label recording of Rusalka (2009).

This CD is available from the Glyndebourne Shop.

Glyndebourne Tour 2012.  Rusalka (Natasha Jouhl). Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012. Dancer. Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012. Gamekeeper (Robert Poulton), Kitchen Girl (Eliana Pretorian). PhotoTristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012. Jazibaba (Anne Mason), Rusalka (Natasha Jouhl) and The Glyndebourne Chorus. Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012.  Rusalka (Natasha Jouhl). Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012.  Rusalka (Natasha Jouhl). Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012.  Rusalka (Natasha Jouhl). Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012.  Rusalka (Natasha Jouhl). Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012.  Rusalka (Natasha Jouhl). Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012. Rusalka (Natasha Jouhl), Prince ( Peter Berger). Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012. Vodnik (Mischa Schelomianski). Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012. Hunter (Robert Poulton) and Wood Nymphs. Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012. Jazibaba (Anne Mason), Rusalka (Natasha Jouhl) and The Glyndebourne Chorus. Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012. Jazibaba (Anne Mason), Rusalka (Natasha Jouhl). Photo Tristram Kenton
Glyndebourne Tour 2012. Kitchen Girl (Eliana Pretorian) with Chorus member. Photo Tristram Kenton

Comments

A wonderful production. We thoroughly enjoyed the talk before the cinematic show. My daughter STILL thinks she was actually seeing the real thing!!

My daughter and her class,along with several other schools really enjoyed the production of Rusalka.
What a great opportunity for any child.It is the sort of thing that will always stay with them.

This was a memorable performance. It was the first opera we had taken our 16 year old daughter to and she was captivated. The music, the fairy tale characters and setting, the costumes, the wonderful voices, all unforgettable.

This is a lovely production, which I first saw in 2009 at the Festival. The production and the quality of the singing was as good as the Festival performance I saw. But, even better, and the outstanding memory of the evening was the orchestra under the loving direction of Jakub Hrusa. Next time it is revived at the Festival, please get him to conduct.

How could I have doubted it. Ignorant of Rusalka, I listened to it on line and thought:oh dear, bit dramatic this one... but yesterday's performance took me into a fairy tale of wonder and of human sufferance, a clash of culture and the terrible pain of communication and depths that I could only glimpse at in this my first live viewing of this opera. Thank you GOT for once again allowing us an enchanting evening and such high performances from all.

Spectacular! I've wanted to see a live production of Rusalka for some time,and this was utterly superb - set design, costumes, orchestra, chorus, principals all amounted to one of the most memorable opera productions I have seen anywhere. The long journey from the North-West Highlands for our first experience of Glyndebourne would have been worth making on foot for a production this good. If some thought the production 'cluttered' I thought it sumptuous. And if some disapproved of Vodnik's phallic costume, I thought it entirely appropriate. I'm already itching to return, and have been reconjuring the experience with the CD ever since. Magnificent!

We have been attending the Touring Operas since before the new theatre was constructed and always find the performances exhilarating and a truly memorable event. We enjoy Mozart and this years production was certainly brilliant and the singing was of such a high standard. It was a first for Rusalka and the imaginative stage settings added to the drama, vocalists and orchestration which again made it a great evening. Thanks.

Friday's performance of Rusalka was a delight and so moving. Congratulations to all involved. Thank you all for a wonderful evening. This production just proves that when a director and designer trust the material and the conductor is passionate about the music, opera can be a wonderful experience. My party didn't want the performance to end. The perfect production to introduce someone opera.

An important consideration for opera directors and designers is to allow the audience the 'suspension of disbelief'. Melly Still certainly achieved that, and I hope to see many more of her productions. I loved the way the 'hidden' dancers were used in the underwater scenes - so effective! The only time that the spell was broken for me was when the Wood Nymphs appeared looking like 1950s teenagers - such a pity! Also, although I hate to say it, one or two looked rather heavier than my idea of wood nymphs.
Nevertheless, a wonderful production, beautiful singing and enjoyable acting by all participants, and exciting sounds from the orchestra under Jakub Hrusa. So much talent on display!
The staging of Rusalka's 'Song to the Moon' was absolutely brilliant, and Natasha Jouhl managed her awkward (for singing), but so effective, action seamlessly.
We've seen many outstanding touring productions from Glyndebourne, both here and at Woking; this had to be one of the best. And, of course, seeing them at Glyndebourne adds something extra!

This production is the best yet! The conducting was superb, as was the orchestra, were the singers and the sets. It was my grandson's first introduction to opera and he was blown away by it. The only problem being that it would be difficult to find anything to match this performance in future!

We first saw the revival at GFO in 2011 and the recording of the 2009 performances is on our iPods. The performances in this production for GTO are all outstanding and lived up to that heritage. Congratulations to everyone involved !

Utterly delightful - beautifully sung and staged, the whole piece flowed smoothly from scene to scene and we were carried along in the tide of high emotion with both orchestra and cast - (until that is some wretched women behind us began a conversation in the last few bars of the final death scene - they were in row L, I hope they know who they were!) - audience members notwithstanding this was a fabulous evening! Thank You.

Pure joy from beginning to end. Beg, steal or borrow a ticket, you will be enchanted. Recommended without reservation. Well done Glyndebourne and thank you.

I saw the psycho-analytic version of Rusalka done by the ENO in the 1981-2 season, and enjoyed it hugely.But Melly Still's interpretation has reinstated the magic element while retaining the human pathos, and I found it both moving and imaginative.I have been a patron of Glyndebourne for at least 30 years, and seen many wonderful productions, and this year's Rusalka ranks highly among them.

Spectacular! I'd been looking out for some time for an opportunity to see a production of Rusalka, and the long trip from the North-West Highlands was was rewarded by the bucketload. I don't think our first visit to Glyndebourne is going to be our last! I can't agree with the Guardian's review sniffing about 'clutter'. This is one of the most memorable opera productions I've seen - but I'd still love a DVD to savour the memories again...

This was our first visit to Glyndebourne and the first 'live' opera we have been to. What a wonderful experience - we thoroughly enjoyed the whole time we were there. The performance was spellbinding, the venue was excellent, staff were very friendly and attentive. Well done to Glydebourne and also the Daily Mail for the glass of champagne, programme and the pre-opera talk - which was extremely informative and interesting. We will definitely visit Glyndebourne again.

My wife and I have been coming to Glyndebourne since before the demise of the old house. The last 5 years we have been bringing our grand daughter who is now 19. We have selected operas which we thought would be suitable for a young person so as not to put her off the experience. All of us greatly enjoyed Rusulka and thought the production was stunning. She has now reached the stage when she regularly asks "when are you going again to Glyndebourne" which gives us great satisfaction. Congratulations to you all. Looking forward to Figaro" next week.

BRILLIANT - We had a wonderful evening on Saturday. We had not seen Rusalka staged before and it will stand out in our memories as one of the best operas we have seen. Everything was superb - it would be unfair to single out any one section - an absolute joy from beginning to end. Thank you.

excellent production .we have seen Rusalka before but enhtralled again

Without doubt, this production of Rusalka is bound to leave an indelible imprint on the memory of anyone fortunate enough to have seen it. The staging was so ingenious it almost defies description.Any complacent opera lover is rocketed into a different sphere with this production. Thanks to all concerned for providing a truly glorious evening that will be remembered with great pleasure by a willingly captive audience.

Grateful for the family workshop - many thanks for that. And then a much more understandable opera than the first time I saw it. An excellent production.

A remarkable and inspirational production - an absolute revelation!

Wow what a production! I had the misfortune to see the dress rehearsal of Rusalka at Covent Garden not so long ago. In my opinion the production there wrecked everything. You can imagine my delight at being at Glyndebourne last night. I had missed the 2009 performance and can only say how delighted I was to have had the chance to see what is being taken on Tour and how the opera should be performed, in my view at least.
Couldn't fault it in any way - a real treat!

This was not my first 'Rusalka' but it made a lot more sense to me than a fine production seen many years ago at the E.N.O.
My wife, our guests and I all thoroughly enjoyed this touring production, and it was lovely to be able to attend a performance at Glyndebourne again after a break of a few years. The orchestra were superb, beautifully conducted, and complemented by some very able soloists. Some of the costumes were challenging - for various reasons(!)but the staging lighting and direction, together, were quite brilliant at times. The lake made sense in 'song to the moon' as the lighting emphasised the reflections at the 'surface' thus creating an atmospheric background to a spine tingling aria. Thank you to all involved in last nights production. The final ovations from the audience said it all!

We loved the whole experience of Glyndebourne and my husband & I have vowed to come every year until we die! This was our second trip and Rusalka on the 13th Oct was just STUNNING. we loved everything about it, the costumes, the scenery, the music but especially the use of words/language in the subtitles, brilliant! Thankyou for the most glorious day.It appears all your staff are there to just make it a perfect day.

We went to see this opera on Saturday 13th, and had a great time, we thoroughly enjoyed the production and would recommend the opera to everyone. Well done to you all.

At the end of the first act my friends and I were almost on the point of leaving. We were very disappointed with the set and the unnecessary sexual innuendo. However, things did improve with the second and third acts and by the end we were like others in the audience overtaken by the power of the singing and powerful orchestral backup. I couldn't quite understand why Russalka had such a strange dress in the second act - was this to reinforce her sense of alienation and not belonging to the human world? If so, it was completely unnecessary as the singing and acting powerfully conveyed this already. The third act built up to an aching finale, and we were left feeling moved by the performance and glad that we had come.

A fantastic production. Superb music brilliantly played & incredible singing. But the best thing was the spectacular It was done in the way that only Glyndebourne seems to acheive. Thoroughly recommended.

Just posted a comment to the effect that I thought this a most stunning evening and mistakenly wrote that Rusalka was sung by Natasha - it was of course Wioletta and I hope to hear much more of her...

The quality of the whole production was outstanding - the singing was superlative, the conductor and orchestra were terrific and we felt that we could not have seen this opera done better anywhere - without doubt up to the main Festival standards. Fairy stories don't always work staged as opera in our rather cynical times but this production made it easy to suspend reality and kept us amused and entranced (although I wasn't quite sure about the wood nymphs' first appearance when they jumped up and down holding their breasts which was clearly meant to be provocative but just made me giggle). An entrancing evening that I would have hated to miss. I shall look out for Natasha Jouhl in future.

I reckon I must have seen this production about 20 times but it still enthralls me. I do like the idea of having two sets of principals. I hope we shall see that again. It seems to add an extra zing to the whole undertaking.

Loved it the music, the story, the singing all superb. Our first opera we will going again.

I've been coming to Glyndebourne since the early fifties with huge enjoyment and Rusalka on Thursday night was up there with the very best. I could hardly leave my seat at the end - I didn't want to break the spell. The singing, the staging - costumes, sets.... all brilliant. And the music - just wonderful - and beautifully played (huge applauds to harp and wind, but I would say that!) Melly Still's Coram Boy was memorable and she continues to excel. Thank you, Glyndebourne.

Well done again Glyndebourne . A superbly balanced show vocally and a visually evocative setting. This was a new Dvorak for me - I had not realised how lyrical the whole opera would be.

We have seen this production in the Festival with Anna Maria Martinez - Natasha Jouhl was on a par - Surely time we saw her in the Festival?
A splendid evening - our guests had not seen Rusalka before and were completely enchanted by the production and performances - particular mention of Vodnik what a voice and we thought his costume was suitably seedy and though the Prince couldn't act his vocal ability made up for it!

A gorgeous production of Rusalka last evening. We were transported into another realm by the beauty of Dvorak's music so beautifully played by the orchestra (particularly good harp and woodwind section) - with fantastic conductor! Casting was spot-on, we thought, and very convincing. It was moving, uplifting, bewitching and a total joy! One of those really special Glyndebourne evenings which will always stay with us.

A stunning performance. I'm always a little wary about Fairy Tale operas but I was rapt throughout the entire performance.

A totally wonderful evening - stunning, thought-provoking production, amazing funny costumes, brilliant clear singing, great orchestral playing so an evening we will be remembering for years. Thank you Glyndebourne!

Although Rusalka was a bit esoteric for members of my Group, and the take-up was disappointing, those of us who did go enjoyed the performance immensely. The orchestra and singers were without equal. However, we weren't so impressed by the staging. Seen from the Upper Circle one was reminded more of part of a quarry or open-caste mining, and the lighting, such as it was, conveyed little.

At the end of this great performance the cast and musicians received all the applause that they so very much deserved. I just wanted to also congratulate the set and costume designers, for their wonderful achievements as well. Thank you for another superb evening.

Just the most perfect Glyndebourne! Stunning Melly Still production, her best since Coram Boy, magnificent costumes and lighting, and of course top notch singing. For me the real stars were in the pit - what an emotional, earthy sound our wonderful orchestra produced

Returned from a wonderful evening, not spoiled by the efforts of wayward traffic and broken down tractors to prevent our arrival.The curtain was actually delayed because of these problems and, as we arrived during the overture,the sympathetic and helpful staff were able to put us into a box just for the first act.This gave us the benefit of some glimpses into the wings to see how the dappled light effect was made and also the impressive Vodnik delivering his offstage warnings. From our regular seats we had the full impact of the whole amazingly imaginative design - what a brilliant interpretation of wood nymphs, who, faithful to the script, were more sexually preoccupied than their more traditional portrayal. The 'dancers' were another inspired touch - is there a hint of influence from the'War Horse'puppeteers? The chorus parts seem to be more impressive with every production at Glyndebourne and, if it wasn't for the extremely high standard of solo singing, would almost steal the show from the soloists. (Just a plea for the soloists, who I realise have extremely demanding physical manoeuvres, to be as convincingly choreographed as the chorus members - Rusalka and the Prince moved rather awkwardly especially in the 'rape' sequence). But this is nit-picking. The whole production, including the highly skilled and sensitive orchestral effects, the sets, lighting and costumes,was superb. Thank you Glyndebourne.

Have just returned and am still "on high". What a wonderful, emotional, fantastic performance. The set was magical, so too the costumes and the singing superb. I was riveted and entranced and given the chance would repeat it all again tomorrow! Well done to the cast, the orchestra and all concerned on a truly fabulous Rusalka.

Beautiful, haunting production, magnificent singing and orchestral playing.
The first time I have seen this opera, and I was enchanted and moved by this wonderful production.
With beautiful weather, this was a truly wonderful Glyndebourne experience.

A stunning performance - the productio, the music, the costumes - all were wonderful. Whenever I play my Rusalka cd I will think of Glyndebourne. All in all a magical evening.

We were a party of six, none of us had seen Rusalka before. We were enchanted by the staging and loved the singing.Well done Glyndebourne.

Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful evening. We were completely bewitched by Rusalka, congratulations to everyone. The hard work, dedication, imagination and sheer talent that made such a magical production is a miracle in itself. Just a few comments:
Did Rusalka have to lie on her back to sing part of her aria to the moon? How hard is that? It was such a relief when she sat up.
The Prince's clumsy groping of the Princess should have earned him a slap on the face.
At the end, after the Prince had died, it would have been even more moving if Rusalka drifted away, wraithlike, through the mist, to her everlasting damnation.
And Rusalka and her Prince would have had an even better ovation if they had come on after all the rest of the cast instead of taking an earlier curtain call.
The music is in my head, and I'm still in the enchanted forest. Thank you again.

We totally enjoyed this stunning presentation of so magical an opera and the orchestral playing was sublime. We were particularly moved by Rusalka's "Totally-out -of-her-depth" panic and pain in the court scene and the ending reached dramatic and musical heights of unforgettable power. Superb! BUT, please, do something about Rusalka's father's loathsome costume - total shudders down the spine! On the other hand, Rusalka's asymmetric wedding dress was an inspired creation.
Dare I add, that the heroine's amazingly long long fishy tail waved a little too vigorously in some of the more emotional moments? Unkind, perhaps, to criticise so wonderful an evening of opera BUT sadly, it was a late afternoon of opera , an experiment that we did not like at all.

Thought the playing of the orchestra and the singing beautiful and it was an enjoyable evening. I did not enjoy the new production - the phallus unnecessary and too much groping in general - I didn't think it added much. Dresses on the whole unattractive, the wedding dress looked like a broken lampshade!
The previous production that I saw was stunningly beautiful and this did not live up to it. I found the Covent Garden production more interesting than this one despite the bad press that they had. However, despite this it was a good eveninhg.

We saw Saturday's performance and we were entranced. We had previously seen Rusalka at Grange and enjoyed it but this was in a different league; everything was wonderful and the performance just got better and better as the evening went on. The gawkiness of Rusalka as she adapted to her legs and as she tried to copy the dance steps was charming and the orchestral piece in the second act was sublime. We were both almost in tears at the end and the ovation was richly deserved.

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