Episode #14

Nymphs, Witches and Gnomes: The Magic of 'Rusalka'

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Soprano Kristine Opolais. (Elena Nezenceva)

Antonin Dvorak fell in love with the story of Rusalka as soon as he laid eyes on the libretto, and it was an immediate success when it premiered at the National Theater in Prague in 1901. Based primarily on two fairy tales (Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid" and Friedrich de la Motte Fouque's "Undine"), it tells the story of a water nymph who falls in love with a prince and trades her voice to become human. Contrary to the Disney version, the story ends tragically for Rusalka. She is betrayed by the man she loves and she is doomed to spend the rest of her life trapped between the immortal world of the water nymphs and the mortal human world. 

Rusalka's journey is one of extraordinary transformation — from nymph to human, from mortal to immortal, from water to land, from family to isolation, from love to betrayal, and from longing to resignation. We hear it all in Dvorak's lush score and we quickly understand why this opera is considered a national treasure in the Czech republic.

In this episode, Merrin Lazyan and Julian Fleisher speak with WQXR overnight host Nimet Habachy about Dvorak's supernatural masterpiece. We also hear from soprano Kristine Opolais about her special connection to this role, about the betrayals we face and about the sacrifices we make for love. 

Nimet's YouTube pick (Frederica von Stade): 

Julian's YouTube picks: 

This episode features excerpts from the following album:

Dvorak: Rusalka (London/Decca, 1998)
— Renée Fleming, soprano; Ben Heppner, tenor; Franz Hawlata, bass-baritone; Ivan Kusnjer, baritone; Livia Aghova, soprano; Dana Buresova, soprano; Hana Minutillo, mezzo-soprano; Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras

Comments [2]

Rob Passow from Pittsboro, NC

Thank you so much for this new podcast. I appreciate your approach: introducing the music, the story, and the high (and low) points of the operas in a way that is both intelligent and irreverent. Because you take opera seriously without being grim, your podcasts are way more fun (and less boring) than some "opera lectures" we sometimes hear. Having both in-the-know and novice opera lovers on the show keeps the mood light while still being informative.

I also enjoy the singer (and conductor, and director---but especially the singer) interviews. It's always great to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the productions. I now auto-download the podcasts directly from iTunes; but I like to pop over to the website now and then to check out the YT videos and to find out which audio recordings you're sharing.

Kudos on this new venture. I wish you much success so that you'll continue to bring us many more episodes!

Feb. 24 2017 05:01 PM
tony lamberti from new haven,ct.

well be there at the met,the music of dvorak and the opera rusalka is outstanding,i have about three or four cd's in my collection..i hear the met's production is outstanding...can't wait to see it..

Feb. 23 2017 12:15 PM

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