Dvořak – Rusalka / Opéra National de Paris 2002 (3)

(Previous section here.)

Musically there is nothing here to complain about. Renée Fleming has (duh) a beautiful voice. In general, I am not always gripped by her style of acting. Not that it would make sense in this opera if she did, but she never seems to go for ’emotionally raw’ – the effect is always elegant and glossy and often very intense, but never in a “would you like to see the bleeding edges of this character’s soul now?” kind of way. But regardless of dramatic approach this is extremely high quality singing. Rusalka’s song to the moon (or in this case, song to the reflection of a bedside lamp) is stretched out as much as it can plausibly stretch, especially towards the end. Rusalka’s longing and sadness are beautifully done, both in that particular section and elsewhere in the opera; I could listen to Fleming sing this material for a pretty long time before I got sick of it.

Franz Hawlata as the Water Spirit (the subtitles have him as “Water Goblin” but the DVD box says “spirit,” and since he’s not particularly goblin-like, we’ll follow the box on this one. Besides, the subtitles also have Ježibaba saying “abracadabra” as Rusalka is being transformed in Act I, which seems kind of weak as far as atmosphere goes, so I am not sure they are entirely to be trusted anyway) was the other standout – I particularly enjoyed the scene in Act II where he has come to the Prince’s palace looking for Rusalka. The sound is nice, and the communication of (very human) fatherly concern seemed just right. Larissa Diadkova (Ježibaba) and Eva Urbanova (the Foreign Princess) both sound solid and glossy; there is a general uniformity of sound quality that fit with the way the way the staging suggested interchangeability among the characters.

One random point about lighting: Robert Carsen really seems to like open doors to the left (or sometimes right) through which beams of light appear. This happens (if I remember correctly) in his production of Tosca, and in Handel’s Semele too. There isn’t any ‘natural’ light in Rusalka, or any direct light – or rather, there’s light that’s supposed to be the moon, and more warm golden light later on that might be sunlight but might not, but it always comes through doors, and it’s always ‘extra’ in the sense that it’s used to show that something unusual is going on, or something strange is happening. Ordinary plain old daylight is not operative here.