Discover the musical highlights in Dvořák's Rusalka
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.
You can enjoy some of the opera’s highlights below.
Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém (Song to the moon)
Regularly featuring on compilations of ‘Favourite Opera Arias’, Rusalka’s Act I Aria ‘Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém’ (most often known as the ‘Song to the moon’) is by far the most famous musical moment in the opera. The character of this cool, watery sprite is introduced in harp arpeggios that ripple like the moonlight on the water. In Act II Rusalka will be rendered mute by the witch, so the passion and beauty of her song now is particularly emotive. Her phrases constantly reach upwards, as though she is grasping up, out of her watery home, towards both the moon and her beloved Prince. A serene, beautiful melody captures the stillness and tranquillity of the night, only disturbed by the harmonic shivers and flickers that underpin Rusalka’s plea ‘Tell me, ah tell me where is my lover’ and foreshadow the tragedy to come.
Čury mury fuk
The witch Jezibaba’s Act I aria ‘Čury mury fuk’ is one of the very few stand-alone arias in Rusalka – a spell cast in music. Grotesque images – the ‘warm heart of a bird’, ‘a drop of dragon’s blood’ – are woven together into a musical incantation that sweeps you along in its dancing rhythms and hypnotic, chant-like repetitions. A melody with a folk-lilt, decorated by bright sparks from the triangle and flickers of woodwind, unfolds with deceptive sweetness. Like Rusalka, we are almost tempted to trust this cunning witch.
The Prince sings his Act I aria ‘Vidino divna’ after first catching sight of Rusalka. Although his musical style and expression is very much that of a standard Romantic operatic hero, the rippling harp at the start, accompanying the plangent woodwind, is the language of Rusalka herself, showing the instinctive affinity between the two characters. And as with Rusalka’s own ‘Song to the Moon’, the instrumental transition between the calm, harmonically secure verses gives us a brief glimpse of pain to come.
Libej mne, libej, mir mi prej
Every operatic love-story needs a great love duet, but here Rusalka faces a problem, as its heroine is mute for most of Act II. The first time the Prince and Rusalka sing together properly is at the very end. Their duet ‘Libej mne, libej, mir mi prej’ is unusual because, for all its passion and ardent melodic character, the two singers never sing together, instead they alternate phrases: even in the union of love they are still divided, from two different musical worlds.