Antonín Dvořák


Antonín Dvořák's heartbreaking fairytale of love and loss comes vividly to life in Melly Still’s evocative production.


What would you sacrifice for love?

Water-nymph Rusalka is in love with a handsome Prince who comes each day to bathe in her forest pool. But if she wants to win him she must risk everything, giving up not only her immortality but also her voice. Inspired by The Little Mermaid, Rusalka offers a poignant reimagining of the classic fairytale.

Rippled through with silvery watery beauty, Dvořák’s lovely score conjures a dappled world of shadowy half-light, of things unspoken and unseen. Rustic folk melodies meet courtly dances and magical love-music in this late-Romantic masterpiece – an operatic fantasy that looks beyond the storybook world of happily-ever-after to find truths that are powerfully and painfully human.

Robin Ticciati conducts this revival of Melly Still’s much-loved production, with soprano Sally Matthews as the nymph who loses all for love. Patricia Bardon is the witch Ježibaba who takes it from her, fresh from her acclaimed performance as Cornelia in our Festival 2018 production of Giulio Cesare.

‘darkly potent… ravishingly beautiful’
The Telegraph
‘stunningly beautiful’
Daily Express
‘Dvořák’s late masterpiece richly revealed without the airy-fairy’
The Arts Desk

Creative team

Robin Ticciati

Melly Still

Rae Smith

Movement Director
Rick Nodine

Lighting Designer
Paule Constable

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Leader Kevin Lin

The Glyndebourne Chorus
Chorus Master Aidan Oliver


First Wood Nymph
Vuvu Mpofu

Second Wood Nymph
Anna Pennisi

Third Wood Nymph
Alyona Abramova

Vodník, a water sprite
Alexander Roslavets

Sally Matthews

Ježibaba, a witch
Patricia Bardon

Adam Marsden

Evan LeRoy Johnson
Brenden Gunnell (11 July)

Colin Judson

Kitchen Girl
Alix Le Saux

Foreign Princess
Zoya Tsererina

Jimmy Adams, William Bridgland, Christian From, Ryan Jones, Manuela Sarcone, Anne Gaelle Thiriot, Oihana Vesga

Assistant Conductor
Jonathan Bloxham

Music Preparation
Pedro Beriso

Ashok Gupta

Steven Maughan

Edward Reeve

Language Coach
Lucie Špičková

Assistant Director
Ian Rutherford

Staff Director
Morgan Richards

Associate Movement Director
Christian From

Ian Julier

Photos: Tristram Kenton. See more photos in our Rusalka Festival 2019 gallery


Act I

As wood nymphs dance by the lake, the moonlight wakens the water sprite, who tries to lure one of them into the depths. They mock him and run away.

His daughter Rusalka, sick at heart, tells him of her yearning to become human. He is shocked to learn that she loves a human being – a prince who comes to bathe in the lake. Her father tells her she must consult the witch, Ježibaba warning her that she will be doomed if claimed by a man.

Rusalka appeals to the moon to tell her lover she is waiting for him. She wakes Ježibaba and asks her to give her a human soul.

Ježibaba informs her that the ability to speak to humans will be denied her. If she fails to win love, she will be forever accursed; if he rejects her, her lover, too, will be eternally damned. Confident of her love, Rusalka agrees.

Hunters approach, among them the Prince, seeking Rusalka. He sends the others away, and sees Rusalka standing silently before him. Unable to answer him, she throws herself into his arms. He leads her away as the other water nymphs lament her leaving.

Act II

At the Prince’s castle, the Gamekeeper and Kitchen Girl discuss events. The Prince has brought a silent female back with him from the woods, and seems likely to marry her; the Gamekeeper hopes that they will be delivered from such sinister magic. Yet there is hope: the Prince is increasingly attracted to the Foreign Princess.

The servants disappear as the Prince enters with Rusalka. Though he is still drawn to her, he complains that she is devoid of passion. Watching them as she enters, the Foreign Princess vows to separate them. She asks why the Prince’s bride-to-be is so silent. As the Prince recalls his duties as a host and leaves with the Princess, he tells Rusalka to dress as befits the wedding ball.

As the ball begins, Rusalka looks on broken-hearted while the Prince dances with the Princess. Her father arrives to warn her that death awaits her back at the lake; she will return eternally damned. As the Prince embraces the Princess, Rusalka acknowledges that he has betrayed her. Rusalka suddenly throws herself into the Prince’s arms, but he rejects her. As Rusalka’s father drags her away, the Prince falls stupefied. The Foreign Princess laughs.


A moonlit night at the lake, where Rusalka sits sadly. Deserted by the Prince and banished by her companions, she longs for death. Ježibaba mocks her, relenting only so far as to tell her that if she kills the Prince herself, she can return to her former state. She gives Rusalka a knife, which the latter throws into the lake.

The Gamekeeper and Kitchen Girl arrive at the witch’s cottage, seeking a cure for the Prince’s illness, caused by the sorceress Rusalka. The witch sends them packing and Rusalka’s father angrily chases them away.

The dryads return to dance until Rusalka’s father’s tale of his daughter’s undoing causes them to flee.

The Prince enters, once more seeking Rusalka. She appears, warning him that now she can mean only death to him. The Prince asks her to kiss him, to bring him peace. Rusalka finally agrees. He dies. She asks for God’s mercy on his soul and sinks back into the lake.

Note: The characters are referred to by generic terms from Slavic mythology: ‘Rusalka’ means water nymph and ‘Vodnik’ water sprite, while ‘Ježibaba’ is a standard name for a witch.

Words: George Hall

Supported by
A Syndicate of Individuals

And the Rusalka Circle

If you are interested in supporting a future production please contact or learn more here

Image credits
Main image: Painted collage by Shadric Toop
Rusalka 2019 production photos: Tristam Kenton

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