Monday, January 25, 2016

Rusalka - Minnesota Opera

Simply gorgeous.
Photo: Dan Norman
That may be all you need to know about this production of Dvorák's opera Rusalka. This was one of Dvorák's last operas and the story is certainly familiar. Rusalka is a water-nymph who falls in love with a human Prince. She desires to be with him and so she goes to a witch to become human. The side-effect of this change is that she has no voice. Sound familiar?

The opera is told in three acts - each about an hour long, yet they never felt long. The curtain rises to a raked stage with stone features and a bridge across a crack in the center. The back and sides of the stage have a projection on them, along with some netting coming down from the fly-space. The whole feel is of being underwater, and we see Rusalka (Kelly Kaduce) fall in love. Soon after the projections change to reflect a forest and we see some dryads are playing and dancing, while also flirting with the water-gnome - Rusalka's father (Ben Wager). Rusalka enters, speaks of her love, sings to the moon and heads off to change her life. That is the essence of Act One but oh, the music and singing!!

Photo: Dan Norman
Act Two starts off in a way I had never thought of. It is made very clear that though the Prince and Rusalka have only been with each other for a week, they are still intimate and passionate - though the Prince's passion is fading. The location is the castle and while some of the rock formations have been moved, the rest of the set is very cold and hard - projections in color with no warmth. The costumes are all in black, white, and grey while Rusalka is in a stunning vibrant red. This act shows the decay of the short relationship, Rusalka's growing unhappiness, jealousy, and despair, the Prince's lack of understanding and his movement towards the next best thing - a human Princess. This act is set at a a party to celebrate the engagement of the Prince to Rusalka, so naturally there are guests and dancing. The guests were paired off and dancing together through most of the act. It was fantastic! Each of the women's costumes was unique and gorgeous. More than that though - each dancer clearly had a character and a relationship with their dancing partner. Through the act these relationships clearly started to falter - sometimes with humor as characters were getting drunk, othertimes with anger and face-slapping. These dancers/actors were a joy to watch - Erin Drummond, Betsy Gaasedelen, Kevin Iverson, Lauri Kraft, James Kunz, Jennifer Mack, Tony Vierling, and Joey Weaver.

Photo: Dan Norman
Act Three - well, I'm sure you have figured out some of the ending by now so I won't go into it. Let me just say that it was just as gorgeous as the first two acts. It has beautiful projections (all by Wendall K. Harrington), gorgeous singing, and a very moving ending. What made this night more memorable is that the man playing the Prince fell ill earlier in the week. So AJ Glueckert stepped in after singing off-stage during the dress rehearsal and learning the blocking the day previous. I love live theatre! The opera may seem like a big show yet the cast was a cast of nine singing roles. They sang their hearts out and provided one of the more generous curtain calls I've seen - calling up not only the conductor but also three other members of the production team. Gorgeous and fantastic production - go see it.