Dvořák’s Rusalka and its many (sometimes unorthodox) productions  

Kristine Opolais, Rusalka

Since its premiere in 1901, Antonín Dvořák’s most famous opera Rusalka has been staged all over the world. Some of its most recent productions have been quite unorthodox, portraying the water nymph as a prostitute and a heroin addict.

Růžena Maturová,  Rusalka,  National Theatre,  1901 | Photo: National Theatre archive
The score of Dvořák’s Rusalka | Photo: e-sbírky/National Museum,  CC BY 4.0 DEED

The premiere of Antonín Dvořák’s “lyric fairy tale” about a water nymph, who wishes to become a human in order to be loved by a young prince, took place at the National Theatre on March 31, 1901, starring the best soloists of the time.

Since then the opera has been staged countless times all over the world. The Viennese audiences got to see Rusalka for the first time in 1910 as part of a guest performance by the Brno Opera at the Workers' House. However, it was not until 1964 that Rusalka received its own Viennese production at the Volksoper, directed and performed by Czech artists, and the Vienna State Opera did not present Rusalka until 1987.

Eduard Haken - RUSALKA - "Celý svět nedá ti nedá" (subtitles)

Thirty years since first Metropolitan Opera production

The first production of Rusalka in New York took place on November 11, 1993. But it was the 2014 production, directed by Austrian Otto Schenk and featuring Renée Fleming in the lead role, that was perhaps the most successful to date.

Renee Fleming Song to the Moon Rusalka Met Opera

This June, Rusalka premiered in the famous La Scala opera house in Milan. The romantic work, which mixes fairy tale characters with real-world characters, was staged by Italian director Emma Dante and conducted by Tomáš Hanus.

Rusalka as a prostitute in Amsterdam production

In addition to La Scala, Rusalka also appeared in Amsterdam this year in a highly unorthodox production by German directors Phillipp Stölzl a Philipp Krenn, who portrayed Rusalka as a young, naive prostitute who eventually overdoses on cocaine.

Another curious staging of Rusalka took place in 2010 at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich. In it, the Austrian director Martin Kušej reworked Dvořák’s dark fairy tale into a case of child abuse, where an innocent wood nymph and her sisters are victims of a perverted Water Goblin.

Rusalka - Trailer (Teatro alla Scala)