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On Saturday, July 25, 2020, at six o'clock sharp, it was time to hook the computer up to the television set and watch Santa Fe Opera's celebration of Antonín Dvořák's extraordinary opera Rusalka. In the background, the Slovak State Philharmonic Orchestra of Košice, conducted by Robert Stankovsky, played a scintillating rendition of the opera's overture as we viewed the opera ranch.

Looking regal in black chiffon with a hint of gold at the neck, Amanda Echalaz opened the program and suggested viewers join her in a glass of "bubbly." Her crisp South African speech made her an easily understood host as she spoke of her career as a singer and her marriage to Santa Fe Opera General Director Robert Meya.

Echalaz introduced Dramaturg Cori Ellison who spoke of the opera character, Jezibaba, a witch with magical powers. Rusalka asks Jezibaba to change her from a spirit with eternal life to a mere mortal, knowing that she will lose the ability to speak. Dvořák was fascinated by these magic stories of Czech lore and the part they played in his country's folk history.

British Stage Director Sir David Pountney continued with the theme, noting that Dvořák wrote the opera in 1900, a time when the work of Sigmund Freud was becoming popular. Pountney said the water sprite was trying to grow into her future. In the Act I aria, "Měsíčku na nebi hlubokém." Rusalka asked the moon to watch over her lover.

Accompanied by Robert Tweten at the piano, soprano Ailyn Pérez sang the aria sheathed in a gown covered with black reflective sequins, her upper body resting on a rock. Camera angles shifted from the singer to her reflection in the water beneath. Kudos to technician Soloman Howard who made the water sprite real and to Pérez who made her story pull at our heart strings. Pérez and Tweten put new life into this familiar song and brought out its dramatic punch.

A conversation with Music Director Harry Bicket, stage director Sir David Pountney, and Ailyn Pérez followed in which they pointed out the fact that Rusalka was premiered after Wagner's Tristan und Isolde had changed the music world. The composition of the Czech opera showed significant Wagnerian influence, resulting in a new richness for Dvořák's music.

For the finale, bass James Cresswell, accompanied by David Cowan, Head of Music Staff at Opera North in England, sang Vodnik's aria, "Celý svět nedá ti nedá" "The world will not give you water." Cresswell sang with a polished black legato and together with Cowan's piano they produced a multicolored tapestry of sound.

At the very end of the program, Amanda Echalaz and Robert Meya appeared with their two young children in the otherwise empty Santa Fe Opera Crosby Theater. Next summer we hope to be there, along with a boisterous crowd, cheering many fine performances.

Photo Santa Fe Opera

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From This Author Maria Nockin