TOMMASINI likes Rusalka

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lennygoran
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Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
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TOMMASINI likes Rusalka

Post by lennygoran » Fri Feb 03, 2017 7:56 pm

TOMMASINI likes it-of course I don't trust him but maybe he's right with this one. Zimmerman carries a lot of baggage but I am an optimist! We see it in a few weeks. Regards, Len

The Met Opera’s ‘Rusalka’ Is a Dark, Sexy Hit

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI FEB. 3, 2017


The Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Dvorak’s “Rusalka” may be the unlikeliest hit of the season, a staging that takes opera’s answer to “The Little Mermaid” fairy tale and turns it into an almost shockingly dark, sexy drama. The mysterious look of the production, fantastical and ominous, combines with the sensual singing of a handsome cast to create a romantic energy rare at the Met — or at any opera house.

When this project was first announced, “Rusalka” seemed a promising match for the director Mary Zimmerman, best known for casting fairy tale magic in her Tony Award-winning “Metamorphoses.” But many were wary. Her three previous productions for the company, though full of ideas, were all variously disappointing. With this “Rusalka,” though, Ms. Zimmerman comes into her own as a director at the Met.

Working with the set designer Daniel Ostling, the costume designer Mara Blumenfeld and the lighting designer T. J. Gerckens, Ms. Zimmerman has explored the dark complexities of this fable. At the opening on Thursday, Mark Elder conducted a glowing account of Dvorak’s score. And the Met has assembled a matchless cast, led by the lovely soprano Kristine Opolais, who gives a vocally lustrous and achingly vulnerable performance as Rusalka, the water nymph who falls in love with a human prince.


Even in the unusual love scenes between the prince and the silent Rusalka, who has given up her voice to become mortal, Ms. Zimmerman has coaxed simmering tension from Ms. Opolais and the dashing tenor Brandon Jovanovich. The director has said that this opera carries a wise warning: If you have to transform yourself drastically, to the point of literally losing your voice, for the sake of love, the relationship may well be doomed. That theme comes through in every element of this haunting production, whose intensity coexists with a sense of disorientation: Ms. Zimmerman has subtly destabilized almost every aspect of the work.


The opening scene is set in a meadow by a pond, and in this staging, everything seems a little off. The pond is a forbidding pool from which mists slowly spew; the willow tree on which Rusalka rests is twisted and creepy. Dancing wood sprites (including a singing trio: Hyesang Park, Megan Marino and Cassandra Zoé Velasco) prance around in curiously ornate costumes, with frilly foliage skirts and headdresses of prickly twigs. As Vodnik, the water gnome who presides over the meadow, the earthy, stentorian bass-baritone Eric Owens looks endearingly foolish in a mock-courtly robe and crown.

When Rusalka, who is Vodnik’s daughter, starts to tell her father about her sorrows and longing, Ms. Opolais, with golden hair and a far-off gaze, wears an aqua gown with long, flowing trails, almost like rivulets of lake water. The cumbersome dress weighs her down: This is just one detail of many with which Ms. Zimmerman suggests that Rusalka is not just part of, but bound by, the natural world. And with her fidgety physical gestures and darting eyes, Ms. Opolais conveys the character’s restlessness and pining. This powerful singing actress adds unusual intensity to her plaintive “Song to the Moon,” Rusalka’s famed lament, suggesting the character’s defiant side more than most sopranos.


Ms. Zimmerman and her design team have mixed periods to create an atmosphere of unease. The athletic Mr. Jovanovich wears an 18th-century hunting coat, and as the witch Jezibaba, who dwells in the forest but straddles the human and supernatural worlds, the powerhouse mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is made up like a Victorian matron (though the cobweb patterns on her dress are a surreal touch).

Rusalka goes to Jezibaba in desperation to ask for a potion that can turn her into a human. Ms. Barton’s chortling Jezibaba says she’ll help, but the witch warns Rusalka that she will become mute to all humans, including the prince. The transformation takes place atop a steampunk-style surgical table, attended to by a valet and a maid who are here dressed as a giant, eerie mouse and a crow.


Ms. Zimmerman presses a dark vision of the patriarchal oppression at the root of the fairy tale. At the start of their first love scene, the prince, thinking that Rusalka, now wearing a white sleeveless dress, looks vulnerable, wraps her in his cloak. When she finally succumbs to his passion, Mr. Jovanovich lifts Ms. Opolais into his arms. The staging suggests that the reborn Rusalka may not really be free, but is simply adapting to a new set of strictures. Loving the prince means submitting to him.

In the prince’s castle in Act II, Ms. Opolais’s Rusalka seems like a lost waif as a strange ballroom dance takes place around her, with the courtly participants going through all manner of angular, jutting movements. (The choreographer is Austin McCormick, in his Met debut.) A rival for the prince appears, called simply the Foreign Princess in the libretto and here played formidably by the Wagnerian soprano Katarina Dalayman, who feeds the prince’s exasperation with Rusalka’s unnerving silence and oddly cold embraces.


By the end of the opera, when Rusalka has fled the castle and returned to her pond, Ms. Zimmerman has turned the meadow gray and dank; the set’s scaffolding is partly exposed. Or is this just the way it appears to Rusalka? Perhaps she now sees, with painful clarity, the bare beams that prop up the seemingly rich natural world. The prince has gone in search of Rusalka, and finds her: Now, finally, the two have a real love duet, impassioned, fitful music, sung here with burnished sound and wrenching beauty by Ms. Opolais and Mr. Jovanovich.

But the doomed Rusalka has become a moonlit phantom, as she warns the prince. By kissing her, he dies. In a final directorial gesture, before heading alone into the forest, Rusalka puts on the prince’s coat. This time, though, it seems a token of remembrance.


https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/03/arts ... front&_r=0

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