Dvorak's three-act opera is based on two fairy tales and tells the story of a water-nymph, Rusalka, yearning to become human because she has fallen in love with a mortal.
Dvorák's fairytale fantasy about a water nymph who falls in love with a mortal prince and becomes an unhappy human has done well in Czech opera houses but not (until now) with English-speaking audiences. This 1986 production, sung in English, takes liberties with the plot but does justice to the exquisite music. The recording's beauty and emotional impact justify David Poultney's daring, highly symbolic treatment of the story. There is no other opera video remotely like this one.
Instead of a lake, the scene is set in a Victorian nursery with toys and a swing. Rusalka is not a water nymph but a girl on the brink of womanhood, whose pain and ecstasy match those in the fairytale. The story, with its elements of witchcraft, becomes her dream. It works on all levels. The singing and acting are uniformly good, and the staging is both fascinating and evocative. --Joe McLellan