Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Vienna State Opera - Rusalka

Last weekend I had a chance to watch the Vienna State Opera production of "Rusalka." It stars Klaus Florian Vogt as the Prince, Camilla Nylund as Rusalka, Jongmin Park as the Water Gnome and Monica Bohinee as Jezibaba. The score is delightful and very evocative. After having spent most of my life as a professional oboe/English Horn player Dvorak is a composer I really enjoy in part because his wind writing is so interesting and evocative. Rusalka is no different, the score is filled with beautiful music, wonderfully orchestrated with lots of wonderful woodwind writing. And, in the performance, the Vienna Philharmonic plays beautifully. On the whole I enjoyed the singers also, especially Jongmin Park as the Water Gnome and Monica Bohinee is Jezibaba - maybe it is because I think those characters are really cool and clever creations. But I thought that Park especially was terrific, vocally and in terms of his acting. I usually like Vogt and I have seen him in a number of various European productions, but I have to say that to some extent he just didn't seem engaged. He sang well, but he didn't really put himself into it - I don't know, there was just something missing. Nylund though was quite outstanding and I felt she was a very sympathetic Rusalka who really embodied the rather pathetic dimension of the character. Jezibaba was particularly blood thirsty in this production which made for some creepy moments - but Bohinee played them with full commitment and sang beautifully. I found the staging as a whole to be rather a mixed experience. There were some shocking moments which were offset by a lot of static standing around and doing nothing, especially with the chorus - this of course seems to be a trait of the Vienna State Opera stagings: some off the way settings with little stage motion - it cuts down on rehearsals I suppose. The best moments were those when the principals were taking the lead. There were several disconnects for me - I didn't get the connection between Jezibaba and ravens - Is she channeling her inner Wotan here? The 2nd act was just too static for me but I thought the the dancers trying to have (and not succeeding) to have sex while poor Rusalka looked on in horror was effective and made the issue of her passionlessness rather stark. It would have been more effective if the Prince had been a bit more passionate himself. All in all I enjoyed the production and the performance - I like the Met's better frankly - but the cast and orchestra makes this production work and the music is so glorious.

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