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Madison Opera presents “Rusalka”
April 26, 2019 @ 8:00 pm - 10:30 pm
One event on April 28, 2019 at 2:30 pm
This Event: May be of interest to the LGBTQ community
Madison Opera presents Antonín Dvořák’s luxurious masterpiece Rusalka on Friday, April 26 at 8pm and Sunday, April 28 at 2:30pm in Overture Hall. Inspired by the classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid, the story travels from a mythical forest to a palace and back again. Its lush score includes the famous “Song to the Moon.”
Set in a mythical realm, Rusalka is about a water nymph who falls in love with a human prince. She tells her father Vodník that she wishes to become human and live with the Prince on land. Horrified, Vodník tells her that humans are full of sin, but reluctantly suggests she enlist the help of Ježibaba, a witch. Ježibaba agrees to make her human, but cautions that Rusalka will lose her power of speech. Further, if the Prince betrays her, she will be cursed forever. The Prince falls in love with Rusalka and plans to marry her, but her silence unnerves him, and a Foreign Princess interrupts the wedding festivities with evil intent. Rusalka returns to the lake as a spirit that lures men to their death – and the Prince follows her.
“Rusalka is one of the most gorgeous operas in the repertoire,” says Kathryn Smith, Madison Opera’s General Director. “I fell in love with it when I first saw it over 20 years ago, and listening to the score is a pure pleasure. I am so delighted to share this opera with Madison, so that everyone can learn how brilliant an operatic composer Dvořák was, and experience an opera that is justifiably popular around the world.”
Rusalka’s story was inspired by multiple sources, including Slavic mythology and the fairy tales of Karel Jaromír Erben, Hans Christian Andersen, and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué. The opera premiered on March 31, 1901 in Prague and quickly became a massive success, hailed as Dvořák’s masterpiece. It was not initially widely-performed outside of Czech territories; the first U.S. performance was in 1975. In recent decades, it has become regular part of the opera repertoire, due to its beautiful music and lovely story. This production is not only a Madison Opera premiere, but also the company’s first-ever opera in Czech.
Madison Opera’s cast features both returning artists and debuts. Emily Birsan returns to Madison Opera in the title role, following successes here as Juliet and Musetta. Last month, she sang Violetta in La Traviata at Lyric Opera of Chicago. The Chicago Tribune has praised her singing for her “amazing clarity of diction, accuracy of intonation, and fineness of expression.” Tenor John Lindsey returns to Madison Opera as The Prince, after singing in last summer’s Opera in the Park. Making their debuts with Madison Opera are soprano Karin Wolverton as the Foreign Princess, contralto Lindsay Ammann as the witch Ježibaba, and bass William Meinert as Rusalka’s father, Vodník. Emily Secor, Saira Frank, and Kirsten Larson play the three wood sprites; Benjamin Liupaogo sings the Hunter.
The Madison Opera Chorus and Madison Symphony Orchestra round out the musical forces, all under the baton of John DeMain, Madison Opera’s Artistic Director.
Keturah Stickann directs her first opera for Madison Opera; she has directed both traditional and contemporary repertoire across all of the U.S., most recently for San Francisco Opera and Washington National Opera. This production originated at Minnesota Opera and features projections by Wendall K. Harrington, who has been described as “the godmother of modern projection design.” In reviewing the Minnesota production, the Twin Cities Arts Reader praised “the stunning visuals on display, which only serve to enhance and elaborate on the action and the music.”
Events leading up to the performances can help the community learn more about Rusalka. Opera Novice takes place on April 5 and offers a free, entertaining look at operas based on fairy tales, including Rusalka. Opera Up Close provides an in-depth discussion of the production, including a cast roundtable, on April 21.
Madison Opera’s production of Rusalka is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, Kay & Martin Barrett, Millie & Marshall Osborn, Sally & Mike Miley, Kato Perlman, Charles & Martha Casey, John Lemke & Pam Oliver, and The Ann Stanke Fund.