Music by Antonín Dvořák; Libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil • September 17, 20, 23 & 25, 2022
Opera's Little Mermaid
Rusalka is the Czech version of the popular fairy tale The Little Mermaid. While it has many similarities to both the familiar Disney® movie and the Hans Christian Andersen story, they are not exactly the same. First of all, her name is Rusalka, not Ariel. Secondly, Rusalka is not a mermaid per se, but a water sprite, also called a water nymph. However, like in The Little Mermaid, Rusalka falls in love with a human Prince. She has a witch turn her into a human in exchange for her voice. Rusalka must win and keep the Prince’s love, or else there will be disastrous consequences for them both.
Will a jealous Princess ruin Rusalka’s plan? Will Rusalka’s father be able to bail her out if things go awry? Will true love triumph?
Rusalka premiered in 1901 and has become one of the most beloved lyric fairy tales of all time. We are proud to be producing Rusalka for the first time in our 82-year history.
Foreign Princess: Leah Hawkins+
First Wood Sprite: Julia Swan Laird*
Second Wood Sprite: Emily Richter*
Third Wood Sprite: Jazmine Olwalia*
Hunter: Brandon Bell*
The Artistic Team
Conductor: Antony Walker
Stage Director: Kristine McIntyre
Set Designer: Erhard Rom
Costume Designer: Kärin Kopischke
Projection Designer: Wendall K. Harrington
Lighting Designer: Marcus Dilliard
Wig & Make-up Designer: James Geier
Stage Manager: Cindy Knight
Assistant Conductor: Glenn Lewis
Chorus Master: Mark Trawka
Associate Coach/Pianist: James Lesniak
Assistant Stage Director: Haley Stamats*
+ Pittsburgh Opera debut
* Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist
** Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist alumni
We want you to have the best experience possible at our performances!
- Run time: Tentatively 2 hours 50 mins (to be confirmed)
- Special effects notice:
- Understand Every Word: Rusalka is sung in Czech, but has English supertitles projected above the stage at all performances
- Download the Program Book (TBA)
- Download the Ruslaka study guide (TBA)
- Parking Downtown: get real-time parking availability
- Pre-Opera Talks before each performance
- Audio Description available at The Benedum Center
- Braille Programs available at The Benedum Center
- Large-Print Programs available at The Benedum Center
Children must be ages 6 and up. Suggestions and tips for bringing children to the opera may be found at pittsburghopera.org/FAQ.
All children must have a ticket. There is a 50% discount for kids and teens ages 6-18.
Warning - the following contains spoilers about the plot
The water sprite Rusalka has fallen in love with a human—the Prince—when he came to swim in her lake. Now she wants to become human herself and live on land to be with him. Rusalka’s father, Vodník the water goblin, is horrified and tells her that humans are evil and full of sin. When Rusalka insists, claiming they are full of love, he says she will have to get help from the witch Ježibaba.
Rusalka calls on the moon to tell the Prince of her love and then implores Ježibaba for help. She agrees to turn Rusalka into a human—but warns her that if she doesn’t find love she will be damned and the man she loves will die. Also, by becoming mortal, Rusalka will lose her power of speech. Convinced that her feelings for the Prince can overcome all spells, Rusalka agrees and Ježibaba gives her a potion to drink.
As dawn breaks, the Prince appears with a hunting party and finds Rusalka by the lake. Even though she can't speak to him, he is captivated by her beauty and leads her away to his castle. From the lake, the voices of Vodník and the other water sprites are heard, mourning the loss of Rusalka.
The Prince demands to know why Rusalka is so cold towards him, though he remains determined to win her. A Foreign Princess, who has come for the wedding, is intent on winning the Prince for herself. She mocks Rusalka’s silence and reproaches the Prince for ignoring his guests. The Prince demands Rusalka dress for the ball and escorts the Princess into the castle for the beginning of the festivities. Disconsolate, Rusalka falls into a disturbed sleep.
Vodník appears and sings of his grief at losing Rusalka. When she begs her father to help, telling him that the Prince no longer loves her, Vodník has little to offer. The Prince enters with the Princess and confesses his love for her.
When Rusalka intervenes, rushing into his arms, he rejects Rusalka. Vodník warns the Prince of the fate that awaits him, then disappears into the watery depths with Rusalka. The Prince asks the Princess for help but she ridicules him and tells him to follow his bride into hell.
Rusalka waits by the lake once again, lamenting her fate. Ježibaba mocks her, then hands her a knife and explains that there is a way to save herself: she must kill the Prince. Rusalka refuses, throwing the weapon into the water and sinks into the lake in despair.
The wood sprites enter, singing and dancing, but when Vodník explains to them what has happened to Rusalka, they fall silent and disappear.
The Prince, desperate and half crazy with remorse, emerges from the forest, looking for Rusalka and calling out for her to return to him. She appears from the water, reproaching him for his infidelity, and explains that now a kiss from her would kill him. Accepting his destiny, he asks her to kiss him to give him peace. She does, and he dies in her arms. Rusalka asks for mercy on his soul and disappears into the water.
Listen to Pittsburgh Opera General Director Christopher Hahn give a brief synopsis of Rusalka featuring excerpts from this 1998 Decca Recording with Sir Charles Mackerras conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
Click play below or download these excerpts for an offline treat!
- “Overture" - performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
- “Mesicku Na Nebi Hlubokem” - sung by Renee Fleming as Rusalka
- “Tvoje Moudrost Vsechno Tusi” - sung by Dolora Zajick as Ježibaba
- “Ustante V Lovu, Na Hrad Vratte Se” - sung by Ben Heppner as the Prince
- “Jiz Tyden Dlis Po Boku” - sung by Ben Heppner as the Prince
- “Cely Svet Neda Ti, Neda” - sung by Franz Hawlata as Vodník
- “Vidi Je, Vidis? Jsou Tu Zas” - sung by Ben Heppner as the Prince and Eva Urbanová as the Foreign Princess
- “Necitelna Vodni Moci” - sung by Renee Fleming as Rusalka
- “Bila Moje Lani!” - sung by Ben Heppner as the Prince
- “Libej Mne, Libej, Mir Mi Prej!” - sung by Renee Fleming as Rusalka
- PNC is the 2022—23 Pittsburgh Opera Season Sponsor.
- Ambridge Regional Distribution and Manufacturing Center is the Tuesday Performance Sponsor.
- WQED-FM is Pittsburgh Opera’s Media Sponsor.
- Public Source is Rusalka's Media Sponsor
- These performances are sponsored in part by The Gailliot Fund for Classical Opera.