A solid, though not exceptional, Rusalka at the Palau de les Arts in Valencia

SpainSpain Dvořák, Rusalka: Soloists, Dancers, Generalitat Valenciana Chorus, Comunitat Valenciana Orchestra / Cornelius Meister (conductor). Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia, 9.2.2024. (JMI)

Olesya Golovneva (Rusalka), Adam Smith (Prince) and Sinéad Campbell-Wallace (Foreign Princess) © M. Lorenzo & M. Ponce

Director – Christof Loy
Sets – Johannes Leiacker
Costumes – Ursula Renzenbrink
Lighting – Bernd Purkrabek
Choreography – Klevis Elmazaj
Chorus master – Francesc Perales

Rusalka – Olesya Golovneva
Prince – Adam Smith
Vodník – Maxim Kuzmin-Karavaev
Ježibaba – Enkelejda Shkoza
Foreign Princess – Sinéad Campbell-Wallace
Nymphs – Cristina Toledo, Laura Fleur, Alyona Abramova
Gamekeeper – Manel Esteve
Kitchen Boy – Laura Orueta
Hunter – Daniel Gallegos

This wonderful Antonín Dvořák opera is being staged at the Palau de les Arts for the first time since the theatre opened. It was a solid performance in every respect, although not an exceptional one.

I had the opportunity to see the Christof Loy production – with sets by Johannes Leiacker and costumes by Ursula Renzenbrink – four years ago at Teatro Real, and it still seems to me that it has positive elements, while others are not so convincing. (It is a Teatro Real coproduction with Palau de les Arts, Barcelona Liceu, and Dresden Semperoper.)

Christof Loy’s Rusalka © M. Lorenzo & M. Ponce

There is basically one set for the entire opera which features a large room with arches in the background. The water kingdom scenes are achieved by adding some rocks. The costumes are modern and attractive.

Rusalka is a ballet dancer here, and there are excellent ballet dancers on stage. In sum, it is a correct production, impressive in many aspects, but without the presence of a key element: the water.

Cornelius Meister is the musical director of the Stuttgart Opera. His conducting was good, even brilliant at times, and he took great care of the singers, but I must confess that I expected more from him. His reading fell short on emotion at some important moments, as was the case in the beautiful Act III. The orchestra did well, as did the chorus.

Soprano Olesya Golovneva as Rusalka gave a fine performance, including ballet steps from the moment she entered the stage. She was outstanding in many ways but a bit light vocally for the role. I prefer a more spinto soprano, as was the case almost twenty years ago with the young Sondra Radvanovsky, whose performance remains a reference for me. Golovneva was somewhat weak in her low register, which is required on more than one occasion and especially in Acts II and III.

The character of the Prince is not an easy one to cover. Tenor Adam Smith, whom I had not seen on stage until now, made a positive impression, considering the difficulties that this character presents. He was at his best in Act III, in the scene of his death in Rusalka’s arms.

Bass Maxim Kuzmin-Karavaev sang the part of Vodník or The Water Spirit, and his performance was no more than correct. His voice lacks power, and he is too young to be Rusalka’s father.

Mezzo-soprano Enkelejda Shkoza as Ježibaba offered a sonorous voice and a solid interpretation. The Foreign Princess was sung by soprano Sinéad Campbell-Wallace, a fine actress with a voice that is well-suited to the role.

The secondary characters were very well performed in all cases: the three Nymphs (Cristina Toledo, Laura Fleur and Alyana Abramova) were very good, as were Manel Esteve as the Gamekeeper. Laura Orueta as the Kitchen Boy and Daniel Gallegos as the Hunter.

José M. Irurzun

1 thought on “A solid, though not exceptional, <i>Rusalka</i> at the Palau de les Arts in Valencia”

  1. Sometimes a production interferes with the power of the music, as occurred, in my opinion, in this performance of Rusalka. While I mostly agree with the review’s description of the principals – and would add how rich the orchestra sounded – the other elements of the production, from the sets to the costumes, distracted. The magic and romance which the score captures so beautifully were often subordinated to a confusing conceptual scheme. Nymphs turned into ballerinas? In Act 1 the romance between Rusalka and the Prince was barely palpable. Only in Act 3 do we see the intensity of their love, and this is when the singing soared.


Leave a Comment