Rusalka – Song to the Moon – Track 15

I have previously written about one of my favourite songs: Rusalka’s “Mesicku na nebi hlubokem,” (Song to the Moon) from the Opera by Antonín Dvořák showing images of the stage sets and Renee Fleming’s beautiful version.  The song is sung by a plaintive girl longing for love calling on the moon to tell her Prince of her love.

Pascal Barnier sent me a lovely image below and I decided to do a little bit more research into the folklore behind the character.


In the opera Rusalka’s father is a water goblin called Vodnik and there is a witch called Jezibaba who transforms Rusalka into a human at the cost of her voice.  Rusalka’s lover the Prince, betrays her, dooming them both.  I’d love to see an Opera about the younger Rusalka before she fell for the Prince with the last Act a contracted version of the original opera to show just how much she gives up for her love.

Here is my performance of the aria from this year’s “Voice Of The Future” competition at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod if you haven’t had the chance to see it.

Rusalka is a water nymph a female spirit whose origins can be traced to the Slavic folklore (Eastern Europe). The name comes from the eastern Slavic русалка ( meaning red haired girl ) and has taken on the meaning mermaid in Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine. In western Slavic folklore there are stories based on spirits called víla in Czech or Slovak and wiła in Polish.


Folklore tells us that generally, the rusalka couldn’t completely stand out of water, half woman half fish, some stories say that she could climb trees or sit on a dock with her feet/flippers in the water combing her hair, sometimes the rusalka is depicted as wood nymph usually during the summer the rusalka would join in circle dances in groups.


Some dark tales tell of rusalki who like to play games, despising other women and only showing themselves to attack or take away their men.  Her purpose was to lure young men, seduced by her looks or voice, into the depths of the water to destroy him.


These stories are found all over the world, in Brazilian mythology Iara or Yara are sirens or mermaids.  Depicted as beautiful females who lead men to their deaths singing to them whilst combing her hair.  Once under Iara’s spell the victim would leave anything to live with her underwater forever, she is immortal but he grows old.


These same myths are represented in stories of mermaids going back thousands of years.  Greek sirens were first mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey they were sea-nymphs who had the power to charm by song, unhappy mariners were irresistibly drawn to the depths of the sea to their doom.  Many medieval sailors claimed to have seen them.  The mermaids described by Columbus were said to be the marine creatures called manatees.In British folklore they can be bringers of bad luck causing bad storms and drowning men.  In some tales they marry and live with humans such as the Merrow from Scotland.



Do you know of any other similar folk tales about these water nymphs?

72 thoughts on “Rusalka – Song to the Moon – Track 15

  1. Again you demonstrate your considerable talent at informational/educational blogging. Your eye for beauty in art is remarkable. A thrill to hear another stellar performance too 🙂

  2. Russalka is of course essentially the same store as Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid” (Den lille havfrue). It is found in different forms throughout Europe as well as other cultures around the world, both as a sea spirit and a river spirit, but always associated with water. Andersen’s mermaid is also the subject of a statue in København harbor as well as the Disney movie. There have been numerous musical works based on the story, including Russalka using the Czech version of the legend. Another version of the sane story is that as “Undine” or “Ondine.” Fouqué published a novella on “Undine” that was very popular in the 19th century. There are operas on this version of the story, which being about a river spirit is essentially the same as Russalka, composed by E.T.A. Hoffman, Lortzing and Tchaikovsky. Other musical works refer to this same story, such as movements titled “Ondine” by Debussy and Ravel.
    Certainly it is an appealing story, and Russalka’s song to the moon is one of the most beautiful arias in the repertoire. Thank you for sharing your lovely and sensitive performance of this gem!

    1. Dear Mr. Alexander,
      Thank you for your excellent analysis. Especially in the german speaking countries, the “Undine” – legend is still present. In the 1970’s the feminist novel “Undine geht” by Ingeborg Bachmann implicated a completely new content of the stuff. I made my first experience reading the novel of ETA Hoffmann when I was 14 or so. Two or three years later, I listened to some wonderful (fairy-tale-like staged and directed) performances of the Dvořák opera.
      So, I was caught and fascinated. So I studied the nice Lortzing version but I especially wanted to learn more about the version composed by ETA Hoffmann. At that time, Koch Music published a new recording with Protschka, Kruse and Krause. So, I also had the chance to learn more about the ingenious writer and acceptable composer ETA Hoffmann. By the way: Hoffmann’s name was only “Ernst Theodor” and he adopted the name “Amadeus” as third name because he loved Mozart. Therefore, he let his call: E.T.A. Hoffmann. I always loved his works, e. g. the novel collection “Die Serapionsbrueder, which contains all of his well-known shorter novels like “Der Sandmann” or “Die Bergwerke zu Falun”, but I also was fascinated by the longer novels like “Die Elixiere des Teufels” or “Lebensansichten des Katers Murr”.
      Finally, i found the symphonic work “Undine” composed by H.W. Henze.
      So, the “Mermaid” story, or more precise: the stuff of Rusalka/Undine is one of the rare motives we can find for more than two hundred years in the tradition of all the european arts.
      I am impressed to see that at the highest point of romantic literature in the early 19th century, the subject became a kind of “Leitmotiv” of the romantic tragedy, but also of the change of the point of view composers took to female spirit in the music: That comparison of Hoffmann, Lortzing, Dvorak, Debussy and Henze is exemplarily showing the change of the look and the importance the female aspect in the art is showed.
      The stories are similar, but especially the music shows that fascinating change from a victim to a woman sacrificing herself to a contemporary woman of self-consciousness exactly knowing what she wants and willing to accept all the consequences.
      I guess Dvorak is the most interesting composer here. He stands between the romantic era (e.g. his symphonic poems and early symphonies) and the music of the 20th century (e.g. Symphony N°8). So also his “Rusalka” does. Therefore, i love that opera. And much too often, that complexity is reduced to a single aspect: a nice romantic fairy tale or a story of a unhappy woman. I still hope to hear one day a performance or recording that demonstrates that both aspects can and should be shown in the same performance.
      To finish with a remark to the aria sung by Ms. Charlotte Hoather: Thank you, dear Charlotte Hoather, so much for sharing that recording. Your beautiful voice shows all the lyric moments and all the power a “Rusalka” should have. I guess that is a role like written for you!

      1. Thank you Sasha for your detailed and very interesting response I appreciate the time you took to do this it adds beautifully to my post. Rusalka is usually cast with heavier lyric voice than I have at the moment; this video recording was my third song in the final of the competition for ‘Voice of the Future’ it was a very exciting day and one day I’d love to sing Rusalka.

        Best wishes

      2. It is immensely gratifying to watch the arc of your journey unfold in our presence in real time fashion. The instrument that is your voice is a beautiful gift. Pay no worries about casting and type casting of various voices, for yours is both lovely in timbre and with amazing razor-sharp pitch and clarity. Simply lovely.

        You say one day you would love to sing Rusalka. On that one day, I would love to be in the audience to witness it.

        Best of luck in the competition!

      3. It’s always lovely to hear from you Phil, thank you for keeping your eye on me and your sound advice. Exam month for me so lots to do 😀.
        Best wishes

    2. Thank you Peter for your addition to my post, I truly love it, and it moves me more as I’m growing vocally it is a much easier sing now than it was when I first learnt it.

      Best wishes

  3. I don’t know any other tales involving women but I do know one where the creature from the water is male – the lovely Orcadian song ‘The Grey Selkie of Suleskerry’.

  4. p.s. For those who saw an HD broadcast of the Met production last year, I first saw that same production in Munich around 1980. It has been one of my favorite opera productions ever since. I am hoping that the Met will see fit to release a DVD of the performances, as there is currently no good, “realistic” production (as realistic as you can have with magic and water spirits) available on DVD.

    1. I have my research on scraps of paper and lined post it notes stuck in scores all over the place so I decided to start to put my notes on line to find them again quickly when I need to and then I thought why not share them 🙂

      Best wishes

  5. Hans Christian Andersens ” Little Mermaid ” is mentioned above. Her story is so touching. To become a human she not only loses her voice, but when she walks it is felt like walking on glass bites. She still doesn’t get her beloved prince and dies.

  6. Has everyone go to the moon ? my own flaming long hair mermaid combing her hair on a rock as a Pirate ship passes is a beauty Sun Catcher in my window , I named her Scarlett .

  7. Thanks Charlotte wonderfull work !!! Do you know the “Lore Lei” ? writte by Heinrich Heine, and put on music by Friedrich Silcher. and there is an Opera by Alfredo Catalani : Loreley, Charlotte, tu es adorable et fabuleuse ! je te souhaite tous les bonheurs du monde !!

  8. Wonderful singing as always Charlotte, and the subject matter is not clear to me at this time, but I have done some study about Homer. I am happy that you landed the role.

  9. The year you sang at llan was the first year I had not filmed there as I was ill. then I found you on face book .you are superb . and I will now follow you for ever,

    1. Thank you so sorry you couldn’t make the festival last year, I watched several of the final performances it was a great showcase and Llangollen is just a beautiful place to visit.

      Best wishes

  10. Beautiful performance!! Especially the bit at the end- your voice sends chills down my spine. Simply beautiful.

    And I am familiar with the lore of mermaids and sirens, but hadn’t heard of the rusalki- thank you for the introduction! It’s pretty fascinating, particularly the implications of the mythology when seen through a feminist lens. Here’s an interesting piece you might enjoy. I found it some time ago while doing some research on modern siren memes: Mermaids and Sirens as Myth Fragments in Contemporary
    by Susan Elizabeth Trigg

      1. Hi Charlotte, I took singing lessons for 20 years and I am certainly acquainted with the “needs to improve” mindset. : ) This performance took me into the “just relax and enjoy zone” which I consider a major accomplishment for any singer. I wish you all the best in your ongoing studies and development.

  11. Excellent post!~ I love your song and furthermore the story of mermaids in between … So well timed we were both writing about Nereids (AKA Mermaids) and that happened at the same time!. A beautiful coincidence, indeed dearest Charlotte…
    All the very best to you :star: Aquileana 😀

  12. That was just delightful… thank you so much for your sharing, it always brings such joy to my life.

  13. Beautiful singing ~ beautiful song…and I really like the opening piece of creative art work with you. This is a great song to open the morning with here in Seattle ~ the emotion in your voice resonates to the soul 🙂

  14. Your recording of Song to the Moon is beautiful darling. I’m working on it at the moment as well as Songs that my Mother taught me. I have the phonetics for Rusalka but how did you learn the pronunciation correctly for Songs that my Mother taught me?

    1. Hi Hun, been working on the Czech for about six years, lots of listening in that time, but keep at it they’re lovely songs 😊. Speak soon I’ll PM ☺️.
      Best wishes

  15. I was just looking for the correct pronunciation of the title when I ran across your previous blog on this aria, and then found this one and your performance. While it is true that an older voice can do little things better than a developing voice, in your case your voice fit the role even better than the older singers (whom I also love). It had both the passion, and the youthful yearning that make this song so powerful.
    And, yes, you brought tears to my eyes.
    I’m in my 69th year, and hope I live long enough to see you thrill many thousands with your voice, your characterizations, your beautiful presence.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: