Rusalka – a water nymph or mermaid

28 Mar

I realize that opera isn’t usually in this blog’s purview, but this morning I discovered that I made a slight (ahem) mistake about the exact month of a blogathon. But the mistake has left me without a subject for today. I’ve also been meaning to review a book, but I’ve been in a reading rut and have not finished anything in two weeks! But I have been listening to opera and it has a slight connection to literature.

I greatly enjoy the music of Czech composer Antonin Dvorak and recently I’ve been listening to his opera “Rusalka.” The libretto was written by Jaroslav Kvapil, who based it on the fairy tales of Czech writers Karel Jaromír Erben and Božena Němcová. A rusalka is a water nymph (or mermaid), but the story bears a lot of similarity to two other stories: Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s “Undine.” I’m actually planning to read these two stories this year and I understand that “The Little Mermaid” has a less happy ending than the Disney film, making it closer to the opera. In an NPR article on the opera, it compares the story of the opera to the romance between Arwen and Aragorn in the movie adaptation of The Lord of the Rings…if Aragorn had dumped Arwen after she gave up her immortality.

The opera’s most famous aria “Song to the Moon,” is so beautiful it almost makes me cry every time I hear it. The water nymph, Rusalka, is singing to the moon about her love for a human prince who periodically swims in the lake where she lives and she wants to be human, too, so she can embrace him. Of course, after her wish is granted, she loses her voice to the witch, Jezibaba, and then the prince proves unfaithful to her, but realizes his crime and sacrifices himself for her in death (though it doesn’t exactly save Rusalka).

This version of the song is sung by Leontyne Price.

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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Music


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