How wonderful that radical opera productions like this one by Martin Kusej should be available on DVD for those who know what they're getting! How indefensible to package them so as to disguise what's inside! Look at the cover: pastel tones, the title in cursive script, a young woman in a fish tank—a bit odd, admittedly, but she looks pretty in her frothy dress. Nothing to indicate that the production will begin in a damp basement, where a sadistic father imprisons and sexually abuses his daughters. Nothing to indicate that when Rusalka escapes this environment she will end up in a palace where servants eviscerate deer while gossiping about her to her face, or she will have to watch her bridegroom having sex with another woman against a wall. Instead of the fairy-tale packaging, this production needs an adults-only warning.
Yes, Rusalka IS a fairy tale, a Czech forest version of The Little Mermaid. And there are productions that honor this completely: the old Otto Schenk production at the Met with Renée Fleming is an excellent example. Yet when I saw it Live-in-HD in 2012, it seemed bland, past its sell-by date, and frankly rather boring; I left before the last act. No possibility of getting bored in this Martin Kusej production. Grossed out, possibly, but still riveted, in awe at the intelligence, the imagination, the truth. Yes, truth. Not because this production is based upon a real case of imprisonment and abuse in Austria, but because Kusej's sense of the resultant psychological trauma is so spot on. Christine Opolais is a great singer, but as an actress she is stupendous. Her performance as Rusalka is so harrowing, so vulnerable, so nuanced that it seems almost an insult that she was called back to repeat the role a year later at the Met, and given little more to do than be blonde and pretty.
Not everyone will agree, but I found this amazingly true to the music also. Once accept that you can explore the underlying themes without moss and moonlit lakes, and phrase after phrase takes on new and exciting meaning in this staging. And passion. The big romantic gestures of Dvorak's score mean so much more when there is something at stake, and conductor Tomas Hanus really unleashes the Bavarian orchestra (a little too much, occasionally). This is as good a cast as you are likely to find. If you have been fooled by that packaging and don't like what you see, you can always listen with the screen dark; the drama is all there.
- Format: Digital
- Language: German
- Subtitles: Chinese, English, French, German, Korean, Spanish
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Naxos Deutschland Musik & Video Vertriebs-GmbH / Poing
- Run Time: 192.00 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B01LB80XCE