The only information readily available on the latest MET Live in HD presentation was that Renée Fleming was the star and her aria, ‘The Song to the Moon,’ was the only worthwhile music in the opera.
How wrong the advance publicity was, and how prejudiced and self-important were the New York critics.! Fleming’s famous aria is, indeed, the best-known piece in Rusalka, but it is just one of an absolute torrent of melodies in the opera.
Familiar with Dvorak’s instrumental and choral works, I had no idea that he had written 10 operas, and no suspicion that Rusalka was so utterly captivating.
Americans, writing about this current revival in the Met, slated it for using such an old-fashioned set and for not up-dating the piece into a more psychologically satisfying (to them) piece of theatre, as has been done elsewhere.
Yes, the set is like an illustration from an old book of fairy stories, the lighting (the variety that creates the sky in particular), make-up, and the costumes are equally fanciful, and all the better for being so.
Under the baton of French-Canadian conductor, Yannick Nézet-Seguin, the Met orchestra shimmered and surged, and magnificently, sympathetically supported an international cast, from seven different countries, that did not have a single weak link.
Fleming, of course, was magnificent.
Although Piotr Beczala, as the gormless Prince who woos and wins the water nymph, Rusalka (who wants to be human!) sang well, his acting was hopelessly wooden.
So, also, was that of Emily Magee, the foreign princess who tries to win him from Rusalka.
Not so, however, the witch, Jezibaba (Dolora Zajick) or John Relyea as Rusalka’s father, the Water Gnome. Both of these, plus the three Wood Sprites, the Gamekeeper (Vladimir Chmalo) and the Kitchen Boy (Julie Boulianne) have really attractive, folksong-influenced solos, duets, and trios and were a joy to hear.
It is an opera to hear again and again.