Dvorák’s Rusalka conducted by Maciej Figas and directed by Kristina Wuss

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Antonín Dvorák
WORKS: Rusalka
PERFORMER: Darina Gapicz, Dorota Sobczak, Ewa Banasiak, Jacek Greszta, Katarzyna Nowak-Stanczyk, Krystyna Nowak, Lidia Golin´ska, Maciej Figas, Magdalena Polkowska, Mariola Winkler-Koltys, Tadeusz Szlenkier; Opera Nova Bydgoszcz/Maciej Figas; dir. Kristina Wuss (Bydgoszcz, 2012)


Rusalka has proved susceptible to multitudinous interpretations and settings. Productions have placed it variously in brothels, a Victorian nursery and even Josef Fritzl’s cellar. More conventional interpretations focus on the atmospheric world of the Bohemian forest which inspired some of Dvorák’s most ravishing music. Certainly, the mythology underpinning the story and the plight of Rusalka herself – in love with a human being but rejected by humanity and, most bitterly, even her sister water nymphs – unsurprisingly leads producers to all manner of flights of fancy.

Kristina Wuss’s production for Opera Nova of Bydgoszcz might be described as middle of the road, notwithstanding its setting underneath and on top of a bridge over the river Brda which flows through the city. The results are visually beguiling and the theatre’s stage machinery is unquestionably impressive. The contrast between Rusalka’s diaphanous garb and the early 20th-century dress of the court is also effective. Despite the occasional oddities beloved of modern directors – why on earth does Rusalka appear in the final scene with a skipping rope while the prince drags an inverted dining table behind him? – the main points of the drama are convincingly projected.

Maciej Figas directs a brisk and convincing reading of the score with some excellent orchestral playing, even if the players are not always perfectly in tune. Magdalena Polkowska is a fine Rusalka, well matched by Tadeusz Szlenkier’s resonant singing of the Prince and Jacek Greszta’s impassioned water goblin. Darina Gapicz’s performance of the sorceress Jezibaba – going for the sadistic end of the magical-witch spectrum – is the outstanding performance on this well-filmed DVD version which comes without any extras. The main problem for lovers of the opera are the numerous cuts, some of them quite clumsy, made to Dvorák’s magical score.


Jan Smaczny