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Rusalka is a water nymph who falls in love with a prince. In order to experience a human relationship, the witch Jezibaba grants her human attributes with the caveat that she not be able to speak. Further, if she is betrayed by the object of her affection, they both will be damned forever. In spite of this unconventional plot direction for the protagonist of an opera, Dvorák scored several nice arias for Rusalka when she is in fact able to speak. The most notable occurs in the first act with the well-known Song to the Moon in which she shares her longings with the skies. The voice of Pavla Vykopalova, the company's Rusalka, stagnated here, but after her second act silence she delivered some beautiful singing in her big third act aria and final tragic scene with the prince.

Of course Rusalka only has to keep quiet until the prince betrays her with a foreign princess, at which point both are eternally doomed anyway. When her speech returns, the two have the opportunity to once more affirm their love. He dies in her arms and she descends to her fate in a knowing bliss.

Dvorák's music is pleasant, but on a whole the performances were nondescript. The singers and orchestra didn't do anything to make it special, and I did not have the sense that this opera meant any more to the performers than an opera in Italian or German would have. The highlight of this production was the visual atmosphere evoking the world of the water nymph. Lovely costumes, good use of video, and effective lighting and movement greatly enhanced the presentation. In the end, however, I didn't have the feeling that I had a particularly Czech evening out much past the bread dumplings I had eaten at dinner.

Copyright © 18 October 2007 Karen Haid, Las Vegas, USA




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