WHAT WOULD YOU SACRIFICE FOR HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER?
A water nymph falls in love with a human prince. A witch agrees to make her human – but the spell will break if she ever speaks.
Based on the classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid, Dvořák’s luxurious 1901 masterpiece travels from a mythical forest to a palace and back again. With a world populated by water sprites and royalty, its glorious score includes the famous “Song to the Moon.” Don’t miss the Madison Opera premiere of our first opera in Czech.
Music by Antonín Dvořák
Libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil
Premiered 31 March 1901, Nationaltheater, Prague
Madison Opera Premiere
Friday, April 26 at 8pm
Sunday, April 28 at 2:30pm
Sung in Czech with projected English translations
Run time: 3 hours, including 2 intermissions
The water nymph Rusalka has fallen in love with a human—the Prince—when he came to swim in her lake. Now she wants to become human herself and live on land to be with him. Rusalka’s father, a water sprite named Vodnik, is horrified and tells her that humans are evil and full of sin. When Rusalka insists, claiming they are full of love, he says she will have to get help from the witch Ježibaba. Rusalka calls on the moon to tell the Prince of her love. Ježibaba arrives and agrees to turn Rusalka into a human—but warns her that if she doesn’t find love she will be damned and the man she loves will die. Also, by becoming mortal, she will lose her power of speech. Convinced that her feelings for the Prince can overcome all spells, Rusalka agrees and Ježibaba gives her a potion to drink. As dawn breaks, the Prince appears with a hunting party and finds Rusalka by the lake. Even though she won’t speak to him, he is captivated by her beauty and leads her away to his castle. From the lake, the voices of Vodnik and the water nymphs are heard, mourning the loss of Rusalka.
At his castle, the Prince wonders why Rusalka is so cold toward him but remains determined to win her. A Foreign Princess, who has come for their wedding, mocks Rusalka’s silence and reproaches the Prince for ignoring his guests. The Prince sends Rusalka away to dress for the ball and escorts the Princess into the castle for the beginning of the festivities.
In the deserted garden, Vodnik appears. Rusalka, who has become more and more intimidated by her surroundings, rushes from the castle in tears. Suddenly recovering her voice, she begs her father to help her, telling him that the Prince no longer loves her. The Prince and the Foreign Princess come into the garden, and the Prince confesses his love for her. When Rusalka intervenes, rushing into his arms, he rejects her. Vodnik warns the Prince of the fate that awaits him, then disappears with Rusalka. The Prince asks the Foreign Princess for help but she ridicules him and tells him to follow his bride into hell.
Rusalka waits by the lake once again, lamenting her fate. Ježibaba appears and mocks her, then hands her a knife and explains that there is a way to save herself: she must kill the Prince. Rusalka refuses, throwing the weapon into the water. When her sisters reject her as well, she sinks into the lake in despair. Vodnik explains to the water nymphs what has happened to Rusalka, and they fall silent and disappear.
The Prince, desperate and half crazy with remorse, emerges from the forest, looking for Rusalka and calling out for her to return to him. She appears from the water, reproaching him for his infidelity, and explains that now a kiss from her would kill him. Accepting his destiny, he asks her to kiss him to give him peace. She does, and he dies in her arms. Rusalka asks for mercy on his soul and disappears into the water.