Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rusalka Returns to the Met With a Bang!

Tonight Rusalka returned to the Met as a smashing success for all involved (at least as heard over Sirius). Dvorak's score came across near perfectly under Jiri Belohlávek (who led the spectacular production of Onegin last month) – providing plenty of that great Russo/Eastern European flavor so prominent in and essential to Dvorak's orchestrations. These were nicely filtered with a touch of Wagnerian heft, and in Belohlávek’s hands sounded glorious from start to finish, with particularly nice attention to the opera's lighter moments which can (in lesser hands) seem too frothy and inconsequential, but here set up the world of the water sprites, nature and woodland creatures as richly as Janacek would later in “The Cunning Little Vixen.”

Renee Fleming had yet another great night at the Met in a role that fits her voice like a glove. The hit "Song to the Moon" of the first act was breathtaking combining the dreaminess required with that slightly mournful longing quality that makes it so irresistible to sopranos and audiences. Singers as disparate as von Stade (who sang just the aria) and Behrens (who sang the entire role, rather well, too) have had a go at it. Of course there's the classic performances by Beňačková which are nigh unto perfect.

Aleksandrs Antonenko made a terrific Met debut as The Prince, and his scenes with Fleming radiated magic (even when she wasn't singing!) and the final scene was heartbreaking, Dvorak, the singers and Belohlávek creating through music what I could almost visualize in my study. Atonenko HAD to be happy with all of the cheers and good will sent his way at his curtain call. He deserved it!

Blythe was - as predictable - nothing short of amazing as Jezibaba. It was hard to tell who got the bigger applause Blythe or Fleming (and ultimately it doesn't really matter).

I haven't heard Christine Goerke in a little while and I felt her voice sounded a bit "loose" and not just a little wild at times. This is a tough role to judge her in, and I'm hopeful what had me minorly concerned in Act II was simply part of her character. I love what she brings to a production though, and her characterization of this nasty piece of work was rather vivid!

The rest of the cast all felt perfect and the response from the house was hearty.

My only disappointment is that this was not selected for an HD cinecast as every photo I've seen of this production is breathtakingly beautiful. I fear Fleming won't be singing this role a lot longer and by the time it's brought back we'll have lost the opportunity to see her in this what I keep hearing is Schenk's most production for the Met.

What a beautiful way to welcome Rusalka back to the Met! Bravi a tutti!

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