Archives For Rusalka

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.

Pascal-Rusalka-Song-To-The-Moon

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.

water_nymph_by_AvantFae

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.

Vila

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.

hylas_and_the_water_nymphs-Henrietta-Rae

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.

The-Mermaids-Rock-by-Edward-Hale,-1894

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.

mermaids

 

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

RusalkaMain

Antonin Dvorak – Rusalka

The Royal Opera House’s article says “Rusalka is an opera about singing.  Or rather, what happens when you cannot sing”.  It echoes the story of The Little Mermaid.  I loved Disney’s ‘Ariel (The Little Mermaid)’ as a child.  I enjoy singing the aria ‘Song to the Moon’ even more.  This aria comes at the start of the story as Rusalka, a water nymph, sings to the moon.  It is a plea to the moon to reveal her love to the Prince.  Rusalka gives up her voice to be united with the Prince, but he is put off because she cannot say a word and he accepts the hand of a Foreign Princess.  The witch Jezibaba’s curse is for Rusalka to live in the depths of the lake forever.

I sing this aria in Czech which makes it even more beautiful as I have to demonstrate the intense feeling to my English speaking audiences.   Classical Music says “Rusalka is the most popular Czech opera in circulation.

Lyrics

Classic fm writes “The song is based on the folk tale of Undine, and when he wrote Rusalka Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid was already 65 years old”.

I was asked to perform ‘Rusalka’ at the Bowdon Festival in Altrincham at the end of the month, 30th November, so I dusted the score down and lovingly refreshed my knowledge of it.  Realising I’d not fully researched it before I thought I’d share my background discovery with you.

Whilst doing my research I came across these great images from the set designer Erhard Rom from the Minnesota Opera Production and I hope that they give you a flavour of the opera and it’s story.

Rusalka001

Rusalka002

Rusalka003

Rusalka004

Rusalka005

Rusalka006

Rusalka007

Rusalka008

It is in my program this Saturday in Derby and I will be singing it on the 30th November with the Milnrow Brass Band.  My favourite group of men The Tideswell Male Voice Choir join me in Bowdon in a Christmas Spectacular.  

Finally I could not let you go without listening to one of the Opera greats giving a beautiful rendition of the song  ( especially as I have not got it recorded yet 🙂  ).  So here is Renee Fleming

UPDATE

Here is my recording from the concert in Bowdon 🙂