Samuel Butler once said “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have lost at all” and so is the case with the heroine in the Opera Rusalka, by the Czech composer Dvorak. Played as part of the touring repertoire from Opera North in its residency at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle.
Rusalka is a tale based loosely on three sources, although the main and most recognisable one is the tale of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson. Rusalka Giselle Allen is an Undine – a water Nymph, who has fallen in love with a mortal, the Prince, Richard Berkley-Steele who returns again and again to the water’s edge in search of yet the unseen Undine. Rusalka begs her Grandfather, a Water Sprite, Richard Angas to allow her to become human so she can experience love and humanity with her beloved Prince; with heavy heart, the Sprite tells her of a witch, Ježibaba Anne-Marie Owens who lives in the forest, and can perform such a task. There are of course dire consequences for becoming mortal and Rusalka will be mute to any human she comes into contact with, including the Prince.
After the spells is cast and Rusalka is made human and in the Princes arms, He quickly looses interest in her, finding fascination instead in the arms of the Foreign Princess, Susanna Glanville.
Shunned by human society Rusalka and the man she loves, she returns to the icy waters of the lake, she is rejected by her sisters and realises that she must spend an eternity paying for her request for mortality, and the pain of human suffering. There is a way out, if she spills one drop of blood from the Prince, she can have her life back. Refusing to do this she seals her fate. I won’t spoil the final scenes, needless to say it is pure fairytale, if a little gothic and grown up.
A spectacular evening and Giselle Allen has a voice of such power and clarity I missed hearing it in the second act - when she becomes mute and human; the power of her performance, acting, movement were all superb. Her final walk had so much power and pathos, I wished that the curtain wouldn’t fall, I could have watched that exit again and again.
There is so much to enjoy in this production and so many of the cast to point out, the wood nymphs, the orchestra, sets, the costuming, the spectacular lighting, the special FX, I could go on and on.