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Our Introducing… series brings you exclusive insights into the operas coming to the Glyndebourne stage in 2019. In this instalment we take a look at Dvořák’s most popular opera Rusalka, a Glyndebourne classic.
Video – Director Melly Still interview
A brief introduction
Czech composer Antonín Dvořák is still best known today as a symphonist. But this orchestral skill – an instinct for instrumental colour, for intricate, unexpected textures and late-Romantic music-drama – is at its most sophisticated in the composer’s most popular opera Rusalka, an adaptation of familiar fairytale The Little Mermaid.
Rusalka, a water-nymph, has fallen in love with a Prince, and asks witch Ježibaba to make her mortal, giving up her voice in return. The Prince returns Rusalka’s love, but her silence comes between them. Facing death and eternal damnation, will the lovers find their way back to one another, or will the obstacles just prove too great?
There’s an impressionistic quality to Dvořák’s score – a musical play of light and shade, a dappled, underwater beauty – that gives it its distinctive, dream-like atmosphere. There are hints of Wagner, of Debussy and Ravel, but these are blended with brightly coloured strands of Czech folk songs and dances, to create one of the 19th century’s most attractive, vividly dramatic scores.
You can find out more about the opera in this episode of our podcast: