Lyric Opera of Chicago's RUSALKA to Open 2/22
Lyric Opera of Chicago presents Antonin Dvorák's Rusalka, the famed Czech composer's darkly sensual fairy tale, which makes its eagerly anticipated company premiere in a new production opening on Saturday, February 22, with six performances through Sunday, March 16. Performance dates are February 22, 26, March 4, 7, and 10, all at 7:30pm, with a matinee on March 16 at 2pm.
The story of Rusalka stems from the same folkloric traditions as those of Undine and Giselle, as well as Hans Christian Andersen's "Little Mermaid" story. Premiered in 1901, the opera features a lush and evocative score, highlighted by its most famous aria - the exquisite and haunting "Song to the Moon."
Soprano Ana María Martínez portrays the title character, a water nymph who has fallen in love with a human prince (tenor Brandon Jovanovich). Although her father, the water-spirit Vodník (bass-baritone Eric Owens), warns her that this may lead to disaster, she implores the witch Ježibaba (mezzo-soprano Jill Grove) to make her human, even though the price is her voice. After Rusalka is transformed into a ravishingly beautiful - but silent - young woman, the prince grows frustrated with her reticence and turns his eye to an imperious foreign princess (mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Gubanova, Lyric debut), a betrayal that leads to tragedy for both Rusalka and the prince.
Martínez made her role debut as Rusalka at the 2009 Glyndebourne Festival with Jovanovich as the prince, to rave reviews. These performances at Lyric mark role debuts for Owens, Grove, and Gubanova.
Lyric music director Sir Andrew Davis conducts this new production, directed by Sir David McVicar, with sets designed by John MacFarlane and costumes by Moritz Junge (debut). The lighting designer is David Finn (debut), the chorus master is Michael Black, and the choreographer is Andrew George.
This production reunites Davis, McVicar, and Macfarlane - the creative team behind Lyric's critically acclaimed and visually stunning Elektra (2012-13) - for a dark and atmospheric take on the opera's enchanting and mysterious world.
"This is one of my favorite operas, a bit like Hansel and Gretel in that it's a traditional fairy tale with a multitude of very powerful contemporary resonances," notes Anthony Freud, Lyric's general director. "Sir David McVicar and his design team - John MacFarlane, Moritz Junge, and David Finn - are ideal to deliver a production that is visually true to the story, while also exploring these dark undercurrents that give the piece so much power."
Maestro Davis calls out Rusalka as having "simply one of the most beautiful scores of any romantic opera." McVicar deems the opera "a fairytale for adults - ghostly, supernatural, romantic, profoundly sad and tragic." In McVicar's take on the story, "the theme of man destroying nature runs through the entire production." His and the designers' vision incorporates elements of German Romanticism with Gothic and Victorian influences.
The new Lyric Opera production of Rusalka is generously made possible by The Monument Trust, an Anonymous Donor, Marion A. Cameron, Exelon, and Sidley Austin LLP, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Lyric's Discovery Series session on Rusalka takes place on Wednesday, February 12, from 6 to 7pm at the Civic Opera House and features a discussion with singers Ana María Martinez and Brandon Jovanovich, as well as Music Director Sir Andrew Davis. Roger Pines, Lyric's dramaturg, moderates. For information on this and other Discovery Series offerings go to http://www.lyricopera.org/discovery/.
Additionally, an exhibition of John MacFarlane's designs for three productions at Lyric - Rusalka, Elektra, and Hansel and Gretel - will open Friday evening, February 21, at the Maya Polsky Gallery (215 W. Superior St., Chicago).