We caught the fabulous Renee Fleming singing the title role in Rusalka at the Met on Tuesday – two days out from her Superbowl triumph. The woodland set was gorgeous, and the diaphanous pond brilliant. The cool blue dresses of the title character were perfect as were the hot hues of her princess rival. This should look stunning in the HD which is tomorrow, so if you don’t have tickets yet and can’t get to the Met get some.
Fleming looked great and gave a beautiful rendition of the opera’s most well-known aria, “Song to the Moon” in Act I. However, she seemed less vocally robust in other places. Not sure if that was the effect of time or just post-game fatigue. Piotr Bezcala sang the Prince. This is the fourth role I’ve seen him in and he just gets better and better. I continue to be impressed not only by his voice, but by his acting. There’s more than a costume change involved in the varied roles he takes on. John Relyea as the Water Gnome also gave an impressive performance, managing to bring out a bit of the libretto’s humor and irony, even if the production seemed to otherwise ignore it. Mezzo-soprano, Mary Phillips was replacing Dolora Zajick as Jezibaba, the witch. Like Relyea. She seemed to be having a good time and gave the character some comic moments. Not sure if she’s in for the run, but we enjoyed her performance. Vocally, Emily Magee was great as the Foreign Princess, but as the libretto keeps bringing up her “passion” in contrast to Rusulka’s “paleness,” a little more heat could have been added.
The conductor was Yannick Nezet-Seguin. I know this mini-review has gone way over the adjective quotient, but being a musical idiot I’m not sure how I’d describe Dvorak’s score other than shimmery, creamy, playful and lush. Does that make sense?
As for the story, the better-half and I are fans of verismo – give us your soldiers gone wrong over gypsy girls, your young men in love with dying prostitutes etc. We’ll take the occasional comic romp, or history, but too much magic leaves us cold. However, this worked. The story borrows heavily from Anderson’s Little Mermaid (not, thankfully, Disney’s).but with an even bleaker ending. That may be why we liked it. When supernatural beings decide to transform for love, things shouldn’t go well.
Here’s a clip for your listening pleasure:
Also want to briefly mention Falstaff. We caught the last night of the Met’s much-praised production. It was a hoot. The setting, costumes, everything worked. Ambrogio Maestri, singing the title role, seemed to be channelling Zero Mostel – and I mean that in the best possible way. Angela Meade as Alice Ford and Stephanie Blyth as Mistress Quickly were sublime. Well worth a look and listen if there’s a DVD out there.