Brussels officials stage Dvořák’s Rusalka

Photo: Markéta Kachlíková

The daily bread of Brussels officials is often associated with bureaucracy and senseless regulations. But a group of Czechs working in European institutions in Brussels decided to challenge this notion and show that there is more to life in the European capital. They teamed up with professional singers to stage a performance of Rusalka, perhaps the best-known opera by Antonín Dvořák.

Photo: Markéta Kachlíková
Opera singer Lousia Albrecht in the lead role, along with amateur musicians from the Czech Sinfonietta Brussels orchestra, the Brusinky and En Arché choirs, and a dance group called Pop Balet, recently met on the stage of the cultural centre Flagey in Brussels to perform their own adaptation of Rusalka, an opera by Antonín Dvořák.

The project was initiated by Ladislav Miko, Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission, who also chairs the Czech Fun Club in Brussels. He explained how the idea came about:

“When I heard of Brusinky performing Christmas Mass by Jakub Jan Ryba, and I saw how the choir develops each year, I approached the choir master last year and I told him: let’s do Rusalka, you are up to it. And since my daughter is part of the Pop Ballet group, I thought we could also have dancing. So this is how the project came about.”

Photo: archive of Pop Ballet
At first, some of the amateur musicians were reluctant to tackle such a challenging project. Simona Pohlová has been part of the Brusinky Choir since 2006:

“When Ladislav Miko approached us with the idea, many of us hesitated, feeling that we were perhaps not up to the task. It was a big challenge for our amateur choir as well as for the Czech Sinfonietta Orchestra.”

For the needs of the Brussels adaptation, the opera was slightly shortened, the libretto cut down and some of the characters left out. Most importantly, Ladislav Miko decided to change the title from the singular Rusalka to the plural Rusalky.

“The performance combines dance and song, and therefore there are always two Rusalkas on stage: one who dances and one who sings. But that is only one reason.

Photo: Markéta Kachlíková
“What is the message of Rusalka today? That everything can be overcome with love. There are many stories of this kind around us. So what our title suggests is that there is not just one Rusalka but that they live all around us. We just have to look and see.”

The performance of Rusalka, which was first staged on the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution ,was a huge success, and those who took part are already considering projects for the future, such as Smetana’s Bartered Bride or Dvořák’s cantata Stabat Mater. They are also hoping to stage Rusalka in the Czech Republic in the near future.