No Czech "Little Mermaid" fairy tale here...
artslover | Kirkland, WA United States | 09/25/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This opera video is well-done in every respect, but it's not what I expected, so let me share my experience with you. The director, David Pountney, interprets the traditional "Little Mermaid" fairy tale in a Freudian vein: Here, Rusalka is a young girl on the threshold of sexual maturity who longs to be an adult -- and longs for her Prince. In her imagination, her sisters become the water-nymphs, her Grandfather is the Spririt of the Waters, and so on. Not exactly the traditional production of this opera, but it's very well-done, and the singing is excellent (not outstanding, but excellent). If you're an opera buff, you'll probably enjoy it anyway. Please know, however, that this opera is sung in English rather than Czech; naturally, there are no subtitles. Why, oh why, did they spoil the libretto and the arias that are part of our canon? I guess I can appreciate the artistic setting, but I'm a purist when it comes to the composer's music, and in opera, that includes the human instrument."
Agreed: a major disappointment
D. Layman | Elizabethtown, PA United States | 01/20/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I concur with the negative opinions already expressed.First the positives: beautiful music, Wagnerian with a lyrical twist.The negatives: first off: maybe I'm spoiled, but in this day there is no reason for an opera DVD NOT to have subtitles (I hope the double negative makes sense). The fact that it is sung in English is no excuse, especially when Rusalka or the Princess is going full-bore in some big ensemble. (Loud sopranos are more difficult to understand than loud male voices.) I understood maybe one-third of the libretto. Given the heavy reinterpretation given this staging, the listener needs all the clues he/she can have. Fortunately, the Met Opera web site had a synopsis that filled in some holes. That's one star off there.Secondly, the production makes hash of the story. While some of the negative comments of one of my fellow reviewers seems to me to be nitpicking, the general thrust seems to be valid: there is no way to integrate the story, what you see on stage, and what you hear. In the first place, if I hadn't read the blurb on the DVD case (one or two sentences long) outlining the Freudian interpretation, there is no way to see it in the staging. The story interprets the staging, not the other way around.In the second place, based on this Freudian view, the ending makes no sense. Are we to believe that Rusalka should have never grown up? Or, are we to say that all men are jerks, all women are ..., and that "coming of age" sexually will transform women into demonic seductresses who will inevitably kill men? Huh????!!!That leads to my third criticism of the staging: a fairy story only works AS A FAIRY STORY. Since Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) is all the rage right now (January 2004), let me invoke him: to allegorize a fairy tale is to kill it. One must let the mythic archetypes stand on their own, speaking their own truth, telling their own story.The mis-staging costs another star.Generally, we have a four star DVD here, but these errors, 4-2 = 2 stars.P. S. In checking around on the web for more info on this work, I've learned that there is a new DVD of Rusalka with Renee Fleming in the title role. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing it is only available in UK. Hopefully we can get it soon. Wait for it."
Thomas Murray | Sarasota, FL United States | 07/12/2004
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Performance was not bad, but why in the world go to the trouble of translating the libretto into English? I didn't understand much more than if it had been in Czech with NO subtitles. Putting it in English also distorts Dvorak's musical phrasing. I guess I missed the small print on this one.... if I had known there were no subtitles I would not have purchased it and I'm sure Amazon won't take it back for that reason."
Original, evocative concept, very well performed
C. Harbison | Montague, MA United States | 06/13/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Yes, as everyone else says this is not the quaint fairy tale that Dvorak envisioned (and it is sung in sometimes garbled English), but it is an original and terribly moving evocation of a similar story--an unusual, different sort of being (a wood nymph in the original, here a young adolescent) who longs for a perfect, "normal" relationship and is left tragically betrayed and alone, if loved very briefly. The staging is starkly modern and at the same time Victorian (it makes Robert Carsen's Paris production with Fleming look very derivative); the singing is always heartfelt and impressive, although Rusalka (Hannan) has a few weak moments especially in act 2. The orchestral sound is generally good although the winds are at times strangely wobbly. But the final effect of this version of a quintessential romantic score is a revelation of deep human meaning that most traditional productions have not touched (including the Met one). Beautifully filmed."