Marta Syrko

Five reasons to look forward to Rusalka

21 April 2023

1. The composer: Antonín Dvořák

Rusalka is Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s most beloved opera. In her famed ‘Song to the Moon,’ Rusalka begs the moon to tell the prince of her love. The opera score is wonderfully poetic and sensual, creating musical effects that evoke the beauty of nature, while embodying an ethereal quality reminiscent of nymphs and water sprites.

2. The story: the little mermaid

In Slavic folklore, a rusalka is a water sprite who typically lives in a river or a lake. Rather than basing Rusalka on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale The Little Mermaid or Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s novella Undine, Dvořák and his librettist Jaroslav Kvapil were inspired by a Czech fairy tale by Karel Jaromír Erben and Božena Němcová. While the storylines are pretty similar, Rusalka is perhaps the most tragic heroine: by the end of the opera, she is a lost soul, forever the outsider.

3. The conductor: Joana Mallwitz

German conductor Joana Mallwitz (b. 1986) is one of the most awe-inspiring conductors of her generation. In 2019 she was named Conductor of the Year by critics of the prestigious Opernwelt magazine, and in 2020 she was the first female conductor to be engaged by the prestigious Salzburg Festival, where she conducted Così fan tutte to rave reviews. Now she will be making her long-awaited debut in Amsterdam, taking the baton to lead the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

4. The directors: Philipp Stölzl and Philipp M. Krenn

Besides working in opera and the theatre, German director Philipp Stölzl is also a film director and set designer. His opera productions are known to pack a visual punch and are highly cinematic. Stölzl has worked with Philipp M. Krenn before, who in turn was an actor himself before rolling into the directing profession. Their version of Rusalka is therefore clearly showing the directors' roots: their Rusalka, who lives on the wrong side of the tracks, is not in love with a prince, but with a Hollywood movie star.

5. The cast of sensational singers

Rusalka has a strong cast of singers, some of whom have worked with Dutch National Opera before. South African soprano Johanni van Oostrum (Rusalka) was a sensational Agathe in our earlier production of Der Freischütz and Czech tenor Pavel Černoch (the prince) played a compelling Laca Clemen in Jenůfa. Also returning is Annette Dasch, who starred with us in the lead role in Jenůfa, as Chawa in Die ersten Menschen and as Ghita in Der Zwerg. It is a real gift to have someone of her calibre take on the role of the foreign princess. They will be joined by multi-talented American mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis, whose star is rising fast in the international opera scene. She will be making her debut in Amsterdam in the role of Ježibaba.

  • The opera Rusalka is performed from 2 until 25 June in Dutch National Opera & Ballet