Metropolitan Opera Preview 2016-17: Kristine Opolais Set to Enrapture Audiences in ‘Rusalka’

By David Salazar

Dvorak’s “Rusalka” makes a much-anticipated return to the Metropolitan Opera this Thursday, Feb. 2 in a brand-new production by noted director Mary Zimmerman.

The Director

Zimmerman made a splash at the Met with her work on three operas from the Bel Canto three – Donizetti, Rossini and Bellini.

Her work in “Lucia di Lammermoor” was universally hailed for gothic style. Her “Armida,” the last of the three she took on also got some solid praise for its storybook qualities. Her “Sonnambula,” undeniably her biggest risk to date, was more controversial with the Met audiences due to its decision to mount the work in a rehearsal space instead of the Swiss village that it is originally set in.

Her new “Rusalka” is slated for a more traditional approach, placing greater emphasis on the stars of the show.

The Performers

Kristine Opolais will take on the role that brought her to international fame for the first time at the Met. Opolais is best known for her dominance of the Puccini repertoire at the Met, singing “La Rondine,” “Madama Butterfly,” “La Bohème” and “Manon Lescaut” in her time with the company. Her famed performance in “Rusalka” is preserved on DVD.

Brandon Jovanovich, who has given acclaimed performances as Don Jose in “Carmen” as well as “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” will play the Prince while veteran bass Eric Owens plays the Water Sprite and Jamie Barton takes on Jezibaba. Katarina Dalayman fills out the cast as the Foreign Princess with Mark Elder conducting.

The Opera

The fairytale work is Dvorak’s most famous opera and features spell-binding melodies, none more famous that the Song to the Moon that the title character sings early on in the work. Dvorak’s style hues closely to his idol Richard Wagner, those his singular Czech style with its rhythmic variety is present everywhere.

Notable Recordings

Opolais’ DVD is undeniably one to take a look at to see the soprano’s artistic commitment. The production is rather idiosyncratic, taking place at a mental institution, but it does engage emotionally and intellectually.

The Met recently released a DVD of Renée Fleming’s run a few years ago with Piotr Beczala as the Prince. That version preserves Otto Schenk’s beloved production, which is being replace this year by Zimmerman’s.