|Rusalka by Antonin DvořákUBC Opera brings to life the magic, melody, drama and sheer beauty of this Czech Masterpiece at the Chan Centre, February 9-12, 2012.
VENUE: CHAN CENTRE FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
6265 Crescent Road, UBC, Vancouver BC, V6T 1Z1
Rusalka is based on the original Slavic fairy tale of the Little Mermaid. The story was later adapted by Hans Christian Andersen and then by Walt Disney Studios into the 1989 film.
Rusalka’s desperate longing to experience true love plunges her into an emotional storm heightened beautifully by majestic melodies, including the famously stunning aria, Song to the Moon. In the end, she must choose to make the ultimate sacrifice for love. Rusalka is not only Dvořák’s finest and most enduringly popular opera but also one of the most deeply moving operas of all.
In Dvořák’s version, Rusalka is a water sprite that dwells in a lake. Rusalka has fallen in love with a mortal, a Prince who comes to the forest to swim in the lake. Since she is invisible to the Prince, she desires to take on human form in order to leave the cool waters and live in the sunlight with him. Rusalka’s father, the wise ruler of the lake’s underwater realm, warns her against such a transformation. Despite her father’s warnings, she seeks out the witch, Jezibaba, to fulfill her wish.
Dvořák’s music combines simplicity and elegance: simple singable melodies that evoke folk tunes are combined with the refinement and expressiveness of a full romantic orchestra. Perhaps the most popular aria from Rusalka is “Song to the Moon” (“Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém”) sung by the heroine as she prepares to leave the coldness of his water world for the warmth of earthly love. The late Slovak soprano, Lucia Popp, was famed for her interpretation. Renée Fleming, the American lyric soprano and Anna Netrebko have all given well-known performances of this haunting melody.
The opera was first performed in Prague on 31 March 1901. Dvořák composed his opera quite rapidly, with the first draft begun on 22 April 1900 and completed by the end of November. It became an enormous success in the Czech Republic, and soon gained success abroad.
UBC’s production of Rusalka will feature the University of Montana’s set designer, Alessia Carpoca. State of the art projection technology transforms the Chan Centre stage into a fantasy world of Woodsprites, a Watergnome, a Scorercess, a Prince, an evil Foreign Princess and a beautiful Waternymph. Joining her in creating the magic and wonder of this Czech classic is Vancouver lighting designer, Jeremy Baxter and Theatre at UBC Inez Ortner, a candidate for the Master of Fine Arts in Costume Design. Stage director, Nancy Hermiston is joined by Italian choreographer Roberta Baseggio to make the opera come to life on stage. The UBC Opera Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra is led by Czech conductor and founder of the European Music Academy, Maestro Norbert Baxa. Together this team creates the musical and dramatic fantasy, wonder and mystery of this underwater world.
When Rusalka was last performed at UBC, the cast was led by a young student tenor, Ben Heppner. This Canadian legend went on to an international career and recorded the opera with fellow Metropolitan Opera star, Renee Fleming. His performance of The Prince on this recording is said to be one of the best in existence.
The talented singers from the UBC Opera Ensemble have come together from all parts of Canada and the world to prepare this Czech treasure for the Vancouver public. All roles are double cast. The role of Rusalka, the Water Nymph, is shared by Kayleigh Harrison and Rebecca Paulding. Vodnik, her father, is played by Jihwan Cho and UBC Alum, Scott Brooks. The Prince, is portrayed by Brian Lee and Zhang Xiao Dong. Jexibaba, the Sorceress is played by Heny Janawti and Francesca Corrado. The mysterious Foreign Princess is played by Jodanna Rose and a Czech exchange student and soprano, Adéle Velová.
These opera performances are made possible through the generous assistance of the Chan Endowment Fund of the University of British Columbia and the UBC David Spencer Endowment Encouragement Fund.
Directed by Nancy Hermiston. Conducted by Norbert Baxa. Choreographie by Roberta Baseggio. UBC Opera Ensemble with the UBC Symphony Orchestra. Set Design by Alessia Carpoca. Lighting by Jeremy Baxter. Costume Design by Inez Ortner. All performances are double-cast. In Czech with English surtitles. Tickets available through ticketmaster, online at www.ticketmaster.ca or by telephone at 1-855-985-ARTS, or in-person at the Chan Centre.
A video blog of Rusalka can also be viewed below: