Antonin Dvorak's best-loved opera Rusalka tells the haunting story of a water-nymph who yearns to become human because she has fallen in love with a mortal. Through a witch's magic spell she leaves her underwater home to live on land - with tragic results. First premiered at Prague's National Theatre in 1901 Dvorak's Rusalka became an instant success with the public and has enchanted opera lovers for over a century.
This past weekend over ten thousand people made their way to Prague's Divoka Sarka Valley for an outdoor performance of Rusalka at an open air theatre founded back in 1913. The tradition of outdoor operas at Divoka Sarka Valley was broken off in 1922 due to a lack of finances and was not revived until just two years ago by the National Theatre. After the success of Bedrich Smetana's Bartered Bride the previous two years, this year's choice was Rusalka with Helena Kaupova in the lead role. During her main aria - Song to the Moon - you could hear a pin drop. In this case Rusalka was actually singing to the sun but nobody minded. The beauty of the surrounding environment more than made up for the lack of lighting and props. In fact many people noted that Rusalka surrounded by woods and meadows was the ideal setting, reminiscent of the countryside at Vysoka, Dvorak's summer retreat which inspired him to compose the opera. The National Theatre ensemble had the audience on its feet after every single aria and shouts of "Bravo" echoed through the valley. It was exactly what the theatre's founders Emil Pollert and Antonin Fencl had in mind when they built it in 1913. It took almost a century for their dream to come true and judging by the enormous interest outdoor operas for the general public have a future in Prague.