Sunday, 10 April 2016

Antonín Dvořák, Rusalka – Aalto-Theater Essen 

Performance 8th April 

Italian, French and German are the languages the most beautiful and famouse operas are written in. Antonín Dvořák did not follow this tradition and wrote the Czech opera “Rusalka” with its popular “song to the moon”. The Aalto-Theater Essen staged a revival of its last year premiered Rusalka.
The Dutch director Lotte de Beer showed a well-thought-out production set and connected to the time of its first performance in 1900. At this time Sigmund Freud released his Psychoanalysis. Lotte de Beers production is full of references to mental institutions of the early 20th century and even a background actor examines Rusalka’s not talking situation. The old folktale came with great new stage technique. This production probably shows every little moveable part of Aalto-Theater’s stage floor. Very impressive came the third act with a whole new setting with cells of the mental institution which came out of the stage ground.
Not only the stage design and created fearful atmosphere was prominent but also the musical performance was overall at a very high standard. Almas Svilpa as the water goblin Votnik came with a warm-hearted bass voice which sounded broad and massive but still very clear and precise. Definitely noteworthy is Leonie van Rheden as the kitchenboy. Light and without any strain in her voice performed she a sprightly kitchenboy. Together with Christina Clark and Marie-Helen Joël did she act to this as one of the three insane and dreamy wood sprites. Their habitat as well as Rusalka’s and the water goblin’s were marked by white  bathtubs. Into this bathtub world came the witch Jezibaba (Jordanka Milkova) to cut Rusalka’s fin into two human legs. By the side of Sandra Janušaitè as Rusalka came Milkova’s voice slightly weak and too less empathic. By contrast Janušaitè: she was the acting and singing highlight of the evening. She showed Rusalka’s diverse feelings in the opera. From the euphoric naïve young mermaid to the unfortunate woman with lovesickness which makes her mad. She used her very clear and voluminous soprano voice with light elegance and shaked the audience away with her great voice. Likewise her softener tones did she show in the “song to the moon”. Gerri Prießnitz conducted at this evening the singers and the Essener Philharmoniker which created a magical atmosphere with a modest interpretation of the score. Apart from a few parts in which the Opernchor des Aalto-Theaters did not match perfectly together, appeared the choir ones more in a good and solid manner as always. Jeffrey Dowd gave an impersonal and slightly clinical prince. He performed with severe tone in the lower and upper register but the high notes made him some trouble by what he could not stand the power of Janušaitè.
Over all is this Rusalka production definitely worth to watch. There were two outstanding soloists with Sandra Janušaitè and Almas Svilpa and an interesting setting with a deeply psychological draft which hits the time of the first performance perfectly. Therefore 7 out of 10 stars.
Reviewed by Christine Arnold

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