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KELLY FERJUTZ enjoys Dvorák's 'Rusalka'


Even though Cleveland has a huge Czech population, for some strange reason, the most gorgeous Czech opera Rusalka had never before been performed in this city. Even those of us who do not share that nationality in our own heritage, are very fond of a wide variety of Czech composers, and who could not be, after all -- it is generally such joyous and infectiously happy music.

The music of Antonín Dvorák is popular on symphonic and choral programs of all varieties, but his opera Rusalka had to wait until 5 and 7 June 2008 for its first performances here. It was a semi-staged opera -- mid-way between a concert and a fully staged and costumed production -- of the type that Music Director Franz Welser-Möst has engaged in frequently with The Cleveland Orchestra during his tenure here.

(Since it was just announced that Mr Welser-Möst's contract has been extended for ten more years, it is fervently to be hoped that opera will continue to be performed at Severance Hall for many years to come. Actually, it was also announced that three Mozart operas will be presented in fully-staged versions for the next three seasons -- with the Cleveland Orchestra in the pit and sets and singers on the stage. We will have The Marriage of Figaro in March 2009, followed by Così fan tutte in 2010 and Don Giovanni in 2011. This is by way of a minor festival celebrating the librettos of Lorenzo da Ponte, also including a series of symposia on da Ponte's work, led by Rodney Bolt, author of The Librettist of Venice. The operas being performed have or will originate at the Zurich Opera, directed by Sven-Eric Bechtolf with set designers Rolf and Marianne Glittenberg.)

This time, however, Cleveland heard Rusalka first. In August it will have five fully-staged and costumed performances in Salzburg, when the Cleveland Orchestra will be in the pit at the Mozart House Theater, as part of the Salzburg Festival. (All five performances are already sold out!)

Dvorák had always liked opera, and had composed several of them during his younger years. In the last decade of his life, however, he devoted himself almost entirely to this art-form, giving up the symphonic portion of his composing. He was already considered by many to be the most eminent composer of this time frame -- the very early 1900s. Perhaps influenced by Wagner and Verdi, he decided to limit his output to opera during the last decade of his life and, quite likely, Rusalka is the best of the batch.

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Copyright © 12 June 2008 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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