Saturday, February 08, 2014


Conductor: Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Production:  Otto Schenk
Set Designer:   Günther Schneider-Siemssen


Rusalka:  Renée Fleming
Prince:   Piotr Beczala
Princess:  Emily Magee
Jezibaba:  Dolora Zajick
Gnome:  John Relyea
Kitchen Boy:  Julie Boulianne
Gamekeeper:  Vladimir Chmelo
First Sprite:  Jihee Kim
Second Sprite:  Renée Tatum
Third Sprite:  Maya Lahyani
Hunter:  Alexey Lavrov

Yes.  I looked it up and the only live performance of Dvorák's Rusalka I've ever seen, San Francisco Opera 1995, was also in a set designed by Günther Schneider-Siemssen.  It also starred Renée Fleming, she also sang the aria from the top of a tree, and she walked on water in the last act.  I see in the archives that this opera had its first Metropolitan Opera performance in 1993 and was revived with Renée Fleming in 1997.  The Met revived it in 2004, but it hasn't been revived in San Francisco.  So I shouldn't have been surprised when everyone around me said they hadn't seen it.

This cast was incredible, and the traditional production gave a vivid idea of what the opera was about.  This is probably the best you are going to get from Rusalka.

The role of Rusalka fits Renée Fleming's voice like a glove, and Piotr Beczala is the perfect Prince Usually Charming.  As the foreign princess, Emily Magee stole all the scenes she was in.  Dolora Zajick is just the sort of wacko witch you might just believe in.  Perhaps she could turn you into a human being.

But then why would you want to?  The music, guided by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, is gorgeously romantic.  It's not hard to understand why Renée Fleming loves this opera.  The only weakness lies in the plot.  What makes a human in the witch's description is that they can die and have a soul that lives on after them.  Rusalka doesn't care--she just wants to experience love.  We will assign the resulting foolishness to youth, perhaps.  It's a Czech fairy tale, and fairy tales frequently come out badly.


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