Antonin Dvořák’s rarely seen lyrical fairy tale for adults, Rusalka, is performed for the first time by Scottish Opera and for only the second time ever in Scotland, and it has been absolutely well worth the wait.
Intertwining the human world with an unearthly realm, Rusalka, a water nymph, longs to be human so she can win the love of the Prince who comes to bathe in the waters where she lives. Rusalka strikes a deal with the witch Ježibaba, who grants her wish but as with all true fairy tales, wishes come at a price.
The libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil is Czech to its core, written at the height of his powers, inspired by the fairy tales of Erben and Nemcova, as well as Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqués Undine, it is widely regarded as one of the greatest European libretti and here under the baton of newly appointed Music Director Stuart Stratford, it truly has the power to move.
This production from Antony McDonald originates from Grange Park Opera in 2008 and sets the story firmly in the fairy tale realm. The atmospheric staging is filled with visual delights and changes from eerie forest glade to below stairs and the ballroom of the palace with aplomb. Lucy Burge’s innovative choreography compliments the production beautifully and its originality and humour are a treat.
The performances across the piece are universally deserving of praise: Anne Sophie Duprels’ Rusalka moves eloquently through all three stages of the character: other-wordly creature, mute human and exiled spirit. Sir Willard White delivers a show of strength as Vodník, Rusalka’s father, Peter Wedd is a solid Prince, Leah-Marian Jones’ is a gleefully evil Ježibaba and Natalya Romaniw is an eye and ear-catching foreign princess.
A five-star production in every way from Scottish Opera, catch it in Glasgow at the Theatre Royal on April 7th and 9th and at Edinburgh Festival Theatre on April 14th and 16th 2016.
Image credit: James Glossop