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

Loved it. Orchestra, sets and singing superb. Less sure about the ballroom and wood nymph costumes as I prefer traditional ones but on whole a wonderful production.

My wife and I were enchanted by the performance: the singing, the staging and the wonderful music. What a treat!

Sorry but Chodowicz was not really 'into' the part, very weak and Elgr not much better. All other characters were excellent especially Anna Mason and Pavlovskaya (stunning).
Great production, set worked well and good lighting.
Particuly taken by the way the Jezibaba's withes chorus shadowed her movements, nice touch.
I pity the poor Prop's person who was responsible for putting the roses back into bunches!

First saw Rusalka in Prague in the 1960s - no supertitles and sung in Czech - found the storyline difficult to follow!
This production brought clarity to the story line; the attention to detail in all aspects was excellent. The movement directors and performers enhanced the high quality singing - overall a memorable performnce - topped by the playing of the orchestra.

I have one question: were the wild animals, necessary for the cauldron, daemons torn from the wood nymphs? we couldn't decide but I thought so as the nymphs were bleeding afterwards?

thank you, Caroline

It was with huge enjoyment that I took a young person to Rusalka last night and everything lived up to our expectations. Because of cost, I only go to the tour and it feels lovely, familiar and intimate amongst many local people.

It was great that it was a real Glyndebourne performance, not stinting on the artists, glorious voices, wonderful huge orchestra, fantastic imaginative sets and staging, with skillful mood-setting lighting. And we loved the wedding dresses!

It was just wonderful and so bizarre, set in fields and with us home and telling our family about it in just over half an hour!!

How's that for just after 9am! many thanks, Caroline

Excellent first class performance and production up to the standards of the summer festival. Well sung, acted and produced, giving a gripping outcome. Most impressive performance by the orchestra. The young conductor Jakub Hrůša is going places, the right choice for leader of the Tour orchestra.

Rusalka can fall flat unless it is a top performance, perhaps not the ideal choice for first time opera goers.

I thoroughly enjoyed Rusalka. It is the first time I have seen this opera and I was captivated and mesmerised by the whole production. The music was stunning and played exceptionally by the superb orchestra with the very talented maestro conductor. The set was so atmospheric and the balletic quality of the choreography enhanced the ethereal feeling created by the story. The singing was outstanding and I am full of admiration for the ability and stamina of the characters. I was especially impressed with Rusalka but all the cast shone and responded to the challenge of this demanding piece. I expect it is clear now that I really liked this performance! Bravo and encore!

Just returned home after seeing your production of Rusalka. What a wonderful evening of music and singing and a brilliant set. Using dancers to create the underwater scenes made the music just rise to magical heights, it was like seeing the opera for the first time.

I saw saw the recent Royal Opera House production, which had the most dreadful stage setting, and because of that the music was lost as were the characters.

Thank you so much for giving me a chance to hear the beautiful score and singing and creating such a magical night.

Anyone who reads this do not miss this production if you love this music.

A wonderful production in every way. Superb orchestral work, magnificent voices, stunning set and dramatic, balletic choreography. One of the best performances in our experience of Glyndebourne over almost two decades.

Divine music and great singing - but WHY was the lighting so harsh in the forest scenes that only in the final part of Act 3 was the effect gained of a magical pool, rather than a concrete culvert in a neglected urban landscape?

My second Rusalka of the tour and with the alternative principals. Very interesting to compare but I shall not try to select a preference. Both very good. Again lovely orchestral playing under Jakub Hrusa with special mention for the woodwind. The long term fixtures in the cast especially Mischa Schelomianski and Tatiana Pavlovskaya were on their usual sparkling form. I started off with tickets for four of the five performances at Glyndebourne but have now bought a ticket for the other one as well. Vintage Glyndebourne.

Brilliant production and wonderful singing! The orchestra also could not be faulted. I think this is the most enjoyable opera I have seen. Thanks!!

I loved this production of Rusalka! The whole experience was cathartic and we dscussed the opera for the next hour. It will rate as one of the memorable operas that I have been lucky enough to see at Glyndebourne. It joins the first production of Jenufa in the old auditorium and Manon Lescaut many years ago in the new. I loved the music, the glorious voices of the leads, the orchestra and conductor, the set, the costumes...the whole production! Thank you very much!

Incredibly moving performance, visually and musically splendid: congratulations to all concerned.

Raw emotion - magnificent. Heart rending portrayal of the anquish felt by Vodnik ( Mischa Schelomianski) as he desperately watches over Rusalka ( Natasha Jouhl). Tour de force? Certainly!

Fantastic harp playing!

A magical experience. Excellent casting, superb singing and orchestral playing. Beautiful integration of dance to aid a clear presentation of the actual characters and story from the libretto (ROH take note!). Lovely costumes and set.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Opera.The joke with Vodnik's fake phallic symbol we thought was not appropriate, too vulgar. The exquisite wedding dress of Rusalka alas was bursting at the back, nevertheless the standard of the solo artists were outstanding as was the orchestra & musical direction.
We are now looking forward very much to the contrast of Mozar't Le nozze di Figaro.

We thought the production was completely brilliant - one of the best Glyndebourne's ever. Thank you so much and congratulaions to all. It was a very moving and beautifull production, with so many carefully thought out details. Looking forward to Figaro!

Superb singing, Rusalka was magnificent. Perhaps the witch could have sounded nastier, she had rather too pretty a voice for me. Stage set magical but I did wonder what the horizontal pipes were for and missed having something dramatic, visually, in the final stage - I had expected streams of CO2 gas or even (fake) water to issue forth. They looked out-of-place. The tree trunks in Act 1 were very good but had gone by Act 3.

A fabulous performance. The orchestras' rich and senitive sounds enhanced a truly memorable interpretation of this opera.

a wonderful evening a magical performance - thank you glyndebourne

This was the first time I had been to a performance of Ruslka and at Glyndebourne. It was a treat as the music is just heavenly. The imagination with which this production has been designed and directed was superlative; the movement was so clever from the action of the deer to the water spirits with their swishing long tails; and the feeling of alienation which Rusalka has at the palace. I think it was a first night for the cast of this touring company production and there were initially some nerves but the cast sang from strength to strength and at the end, we came away talking of a wonderful performance and production. Well done Glyndebourne!

A gorgeous Autumn afternoon(compared to the torrential rain we endured in August for The Fairy Queen)and a wonderful performance of one of the great operas. Sitting on the left hand side of the theatre we revelled in the orchestral score, what a magnificent harpist in particular. We couldn't believe it wasn't the LPO in the pit. Excellent singing, an engaging staging and, at the end, very moving. What a splendid conductor you have in Maestro Krusa. I hope gving up the role of MD of the tour doesn not mean he mean that will not conduct again at Glyndebourne. The cheers at the end were well deserved. Thank you.

Having seen Rusalka now for the 4th time, I was disappointed with the GOT "updating". It was sexed up to the forest's rutting season. All this sexual innuendo in the choreography was over the top, and the near-rape in the second act quite unbelievably ridiculous.
The grotto lost its magic by too much lighting into its interior. The singing was fabulous, Rusalka outstanding, also Vodnik, the Prince had some beautiful piano-singing, and the supporting characters were excellent. Pity about the update.
Dr. Dagmar Bird

We loved it ,great cast ,excellent staging and Natasha was to die for - she was brilliant .

We and our guests, who had been disappointed with another production of Rusalka elsewhere, were delighted by the orchestra, production and singing. Special congratulations to Melly Still for handling a very difficult opera to stage, Natasha Jouhl and Mischa Schelomianski.

A SUPERB PERFORMANCE WITH WITH WONDERFUL SINGING, ORCHESTRAL ACCOMPANIMENT,STAGE SETTING AND DIRECTION.a MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE.

Rusalka was possibly the most enjoyable Opera I have ever attended at Glyndebourne. At the very end, in the emotional and dramatic silence of the theatre, somebody in the auditorium gasped, 'Wow!' and that entirely sums up my opinion - 'Wow!'
Fantastically well done, EVERYONE!

Terrific production, sensitively conducted and played, allowing the singers to really deliver the text. Beautifully observed production with a fine performance from Natasha Jouhl and another wonderful character and vocal assumption by Anne Mason as Jezibaba, every word clear and thrilling sounds above the stave.

It was all a total 365 degree wonderful experience (though we were tempted to leave after the First Act to have a happy ending). Music and singing divine. Rusulka's voice was sublime! Very creative sets. Quite a suppresive opera politically - keep in your own class or beware! It left me feeling like a child engrossed in a most gripping story, almost sitting, mouth opened. Congratulations to all at Glyndebourne, yet another coup! Many thanks, Sue

This is an utterly outstanding production in every way. It is very rare that a production acts as a perfect vehicle for an opera, and I wish Glyndebourne could get this perfect harmony every time. The production is daring, imaginative, intensely creative, yet at no point gets in the composer's way. This was an experience to store in the memory.

The small adjustments made to the water nymph scenes to fit the touring theatres are very well done. The cast, some of whom are permanent fixtures in this production, is superb. The orchestra under Jacub Hrusa sounds earthily Czech with particularly lovely woodwind playing. Beautifully unhurried conducting. Typical comments were 'Ooh I wish I could come back and see this again!' I count myself lucky I have three more performances to see.

Absolutely wonderful, the setting, the music, the cast, the story a fantastic way to spend a Saturday. Thank you

Despite restricted view it was fabulous; the story, the music, the singing, the sets, the costumes, the production. An emotional field trip!

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