Photo Flash: Resonance Works Presents RUSALKA
RESONANCE WORKS closes its fifth season with a fully staged production of Dvo?ák's opera Rusalka on Friday, May 11, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, May 13, at 3 p.m. Performances will be held at the Charity Randall Theatre in Oakland, continuing an exciting partnership with the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Theatre Arts. Presented with generous support from the Heinz Endowments, Rusalka will be performed with the Resonance Chamber Orchestra and sung in the original Czech with projected English supertitles. Resonance WorksFounder and Artistic Director Maria Sensi Sellner conducts.
Drawing inspiration from Slavic mythology, with many similarities to Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, Dvo?ák's opera tells the story of Rusalka, a water nymph who falls in love with a Prince and desires to become human to be with him. Rusalka's father, after making his ardent objections known, steers her to a witch, who tells Rusalka that, in order to become human, she must sacrifice her voice and immortality. What's more, if she fails to win the Prince's love, he will die, and she will be condemned to eternal damnation. With high stakes and visceral emotions, Rusalka is more than just a fairy tale: It is a multi-layered masterwork that asks what it means to be human, to love, and be loved in return.
Director Andrew Nienaber, who previously directed Resonance Works' acclaimed Elixir of Love, returns to spearhead this new production. "I love Rusalka, because it is a fairy tale, and like the best fairy tales, it uses fantasy to reflect real human emotion and real human problems," reflects Nienaber. "The story of lost innocence, manipulation and ultimate tragedy is achingly familiar to us all, even without witches and water nymphs. Plus, it has some of the most gorgeous music ever written."
Rusalka represents yet another Pittsburgh premiere, among several in Resonance Works' five-year history. Passionate about connecting relevant, rarely heard works to audiences in Pittsburgh, Sellner is particularly excited to share this production of Dvo?ák's most performed opera. "When I learned that Rusalka had not yet been performed in Pittsburgh, I knew we had to do it! There is such a rich Slavic community in Pittsburgh, and it was the perfect choice to feature a number of singers and our Resonance Chamber Orchestra. Those who love Dvo?ák's orchestral music will be right at home in this lush score."
Resonance Works has assembled a stellar cast whose previous credits include some of the top opera houses in the world. Husband and wife duo Rachele Schmiege and Stefan Barner play Rusalka and the Prince for whom she sacrifices everything; audiences will remember Schmiege from her portrayal of the title role in Resonance Works' production of Cinderella, while Barner, seen recently at Virginia Opera, Boston Opera Collaborative and the Glimmerglass Festival, makes his Pittsburgh debut. Also making his Resonance Works debut is Michael Scarcelle (Mobile Opera, Shreveport Opera) as Vodník, Rusalka's father. Beloved countertenor Andrey Nemzer (Metropolitan Opera, Pittsburgh Symphony) stars as the witch Jeibaba, a role rarely performed by a countertenor. Several Resonance Works favorites comprise the remainder of the cast: soprano Natalie Polito (Falstaff) as the Foreign Princess, tenor Benjamin Robinson (Falstaff) as the Gamekeeper, and Rebecca Shorstein, Erin Schmuraand Zanna Fredland as the Wood Nymphs. Singing the role of the Kitchen Boy is rising star Joanna Latini (Santa Fe Opera, Kentucky Opera), who appeared as a witch in Resonance Works' Macbeth and in the ensemble of Elixir of Love while she was a student at Carnegie Mellon University. Joanna will return to Resonance Works directly from the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in New York, where she is a national semi-finalist.
In addition to performing in Rusalka, Rachele Schmiege and Stefan Barner will be joining local Resonance Works artists participating in the Pittsburgh Marathon, supporting Resonance Works' Run for a Reason team.
Once again, Resonance Works is offering reserved seating at the Charity Randall Theatre, with tickets starting at just $13.50. Discounts are available for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, please visit resworks.org/tickets or call (412) 501-3330.
Photo Credit: Alisa Innocenti