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06 July 2023 (Thu), 19:00 World famous Mariinsky Ballet and Opera Theatre - Opera and Concert Hall - Stars of the Stars Conducted by Maestro Gergiev Opera Antonin Dvorak "Rusalka" (Mermaid) (opera in three acts)

Running time: 3 hours 10 minutes (till 22:10)

The performance has 2 intermissions

Schedule for Antonin Dvorak "Rusalka" (Mermaid) (opera in three acts) 2022

Conductor: Maestro Valery Gergiev

Composer: Antonin Dvorak
Musical Preparation: Larisa Gergieva
Composer: Antonin Dvorak
Lighting Designer: Kamil Kutyev
Libretto: Jaroslav Kvapil
Stage Director: Alexander Maskalin
Musical Director: Mikhail Tatarnikov
Principal Chorus Master: Pavel Teplov
Set Designer: Sergei Grachev
Costume Designer: Tatiana Yastrebova

Orchestra: Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra
Opera company: Mariinsky (Kirov) Opera

Opera in 3 acts

Performed in Czech with synchronised Russian supertitles

Premiere of this production: 15 July 2009, Concert Hall of the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg

Music by Antonin Dvorak
Libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil

From the very outset of his creative career, Dvořák regarded opera as the centremost genre in music. Born at a time when the idea of a national opera house was born in Bohemia, the composer in his youth had the possibility of discovering and familiarising himself with the musical stage and acquiring rich practical experience. Having worked for ten years as a violist in the orchestra of Prague’s Provisional Theatre, Dvořák personally brought about the birth of Czech national opera: in 1866 the position of Principal Conductor was occupied by Bedřich Smetana, who had overseen the premieres of his first operatic works – The Brandenburgers in Bohemia, Prodaná nevěsta (The Bartered Bride) and Dalibor, which went on to become classics of Czech musical theatre. At the close of his life, Dvořák, regretting the fact that his operatic legacy lay in the shadow of his works in other genres, took a decision: “I want to dedicate all of my powers to the creation of an opera.” It was during these years that Rusalka was written – the second last and the finest of all ten works by the composer written for the musical stage.

The unhappy love story of Rusalka for the Prince drew the attention of many of the great men of the pen and of music. In the “romantic” 19th century it was particularly popular: de la Motte Fouquй and Zhukovsky, Pushkin and Andersen, Hoffmann and Lortzing, Davydov and Dargomyzhsky had all turned their eyes on it… The basis of Dvořák’s opera lies in a version of the subject written by the young dramatist Jaroslav Kvapil in the folkloric style. The love story skilfully weaves together Czech sources, the poetry of which utterly enraptured the composer, fairytales by Bojena Nemtsova, ballads by Karel Jaromír Erben and folk legends. Inspired by the libretto, Dvořák worked extremely quickly and the score was completed after seven months.

Rusalka is a beautiful, lyric fairytale, where the Czech genius’ melodic gift and his skill as a symphonic composer appear at their most majestic. There is much in it that brings to mind another musical story of a fairytale girl and a worldly man – Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden. Particularly expressive are Dvořák’s inspired scenes of the nature of Bohemia, woodland romanticism, the fantasy world of mermaids, forest wardens and, already familiar from the vivid symphonic “portraits” by the composer, the characters of the Water-Sprite and the Witch (in this case Ježibaba – the Czech version of Baba Yaga). One masterpiece of Dvořák’s lyricism comes in Rusalka’s song “My moon, in the distant heavens” from Act I: filled with light femininity and Slavic intimacy, it is a true jewel in the crown of the soprano repertoire.

Presented at the National Theatre of Prague in 1901, Rusalka became Dvořák’s loudest triumph in opera (the role of the principal female character was performed by outstanding Russian singer and Mariinsky Theatre soloist Maria Mikhailova). Over the subsequent five years, the opera was performed around eight hundred times, and soon began to win over opera houses and audiences across the globe.

Nadezhda Kulygina


Act one

A spring night. Wood-Spirits awake. Wood-Nymphs arrive. They make merry and play around the lake. Wood-Nymphs try to wake the Water-Sprite up. He wakes up and starts playing with them. Wood-Nymphs disperse. A sad Rusalka arrives. She asks the Water-Sprite to talk to her. She wants to become human — to have a human soul, radiating light when the person has died. She has seen the Prince at the lake and is longing to be hugged by him. Since she saw him, she has had no peace. The Water-Sprite feels sorry for her but he has no remedy for love. He sends Rusalka to Jeћibaba and despairingly, disappears. 

Rusalka is alone. The moon comes out from behind the cloud. Rusalka addresses the moon, begging it to tell the Prince of her love. The moon doesn’t listen and disappears. Rusalka calls for Jeћibaba. The witch appears. She can’t hear or see Rusalka. Jeћibaba invites Rusalka to leave the lake. Rusalka can’t do that — she’s wrapped with seaweed and water lilies. Jeћibaba conjures and assists Rusalka get onto her feet. Rusalka gets out of the lake and begs the witch to help her. 

Jeћibaba asks for a pearl necklace as a payment. Rusalka promises to give the witch everything she has, provided Jeћibaba helped her to become human. Jeћibaba agrees but asks for Rusalka’s attire. The witch warns Rusalka that by becoming mortal, she will lose her power of speech. The most dreadful thing is, however, that if she becomes human and is betrayed by her lover, both she and he will be eternally damned: Rusalka won’t be able to come back to her sisters and the Prince will die. Rusalka isn’t afraid of the damnation; she’s ready to destroy the sorcery. Jeћibaba helps Rusalka and turns her onto a mute girl. 

In the meantime, in the forest the Prince appears followed by a party of hunters. They have been pursuing a doe. The Gamekeeper sings a song about the White Doe. The Prince is attracted by the lake, he sends his hunters away, hoping to be alone with his thoughts. Suddenly Rusalka appears as a mute girl. Prince is stunned with her beauty. He asks for a sign that she likes him. Rusalka embraces the Prince, but she hears a summons of her Rusalka friends and wishes to return to the lake. The Prince takes Rusalka to his castle.

Act two

A week later. The wedding of the Prince and his bride is approaching. The Prince suspects that Rusalka doesn’t love him. The mute girl can’t express her feelings. A Foreign Princess, who counted on the Prince’s love, appears. The Foreign Princess is both jealous: she mocks at the mute girl. The Princess decides to derange the wedding. She reproaches the Prince for ignoring his guests and giving all his attention to his bride. The Foreign Princess asks for permission to examine the girl. The Prince is embarrassed. He sends Rusalka away to dress for the ball. As soon as she is gone, he begins courting the Princess. Rusalka is in despair. 

The Water-Sprite arrives and voices his despair over the sad human fate in store for Rusalka. Preparations for the wedding begin. A wedding song about red roses is sung. Rusalka got sacred and calls for the Water-Sprite. He appears. Rusalka asks him to take her back to the lake. The Water-Sprite demands her to be brave and firm. Rusalka complaints that the Foreign Princess has managed to captivate the Prince. The Prince and the Princess come into the garden, and the Prince expresses his love for her — he’s ready to forget Rusalka. Rusalka rushes into his arms, but he rejects her. The Water-Sprite curses the Prince and foretells his soon death. The Water-Sprite takes Rusalka back to the lake. The Princess is triumphant: she has deranged the wedding.

Act three

The damnation of Jeћibaba has come to its power. Now Rusalka belongs to evil powers and can’t join her friends. She’s doomed to bring death to people. Rusalka is alone. She feels sad. Jeћibaba arrives. Rusalka asks for help. Jeћibaba suggests revenge: Rusalka could kill the Prince and thus get rid of the damnation. Rusalka is horrified. She loves the Prince and wants him to live. Jeћibaba laughs at the weak Rusalka and disappears. 

Rusalka tries to approach her Rusalka sisters, but they run from her. Rusalka sadly vanishes into the lake. Careless Wood-Nymphs arrive, they want to play and call for the Water-Sprite. He appears but drives the Nymphs away: he can’t play, he feels sorry for Rusalka — she’s doomed to be alone. Sad Wood-Spirits run away. The Prince emerges. He’s cursed. He’s looking for Rusalka. Rusalka rises from the depths of the lake. The Prince begs Rusalka's forgiveness and asks her to kiss him. Her kiss means death, she says, but the Prince is ready die in her embraces. She embraces and kisses him. The Prince dies. Rusalka tells him of his love and begs God to forgive all the sins of the deceased Prince.

Schedule for Antonin Dvorak "Rusalka" (Mermaid) (opera in three acts) 2022

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