Rusalka, between candid nature and harsh technology

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Toulouse. Capitol Theater. 09-X-2022. Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904): Rusalka, lyrical tale in three acts to a libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil. Direction, sets, costumes, choreography and lights: Stefano Poda. With: Anita Hartig, Rusalka; Piotr Buszewski, The Prince; Aleksei Isaev, The Ondin; Béatrice Uria-Monzon, The Foreign Princess; Claire Barnett-Jones, Ježibaba; Valentina Fedeneva, First Nymph; Louise Foor, Second Nymph, Svetlana Lifar, Third Nymph; Fabrice Alibert, the Forester / The Hunter; Séraphine Cotrez, the Marmiton. Jorge Calderon Arias, Maud Boissière, Juliette César, Arthur Delorme, Xavier-Gabriel Gocel, Elise Griffon, Izaskun Insausti Lorente, Marine Jardin, Antoine Lecouteux, Grégoire Lugué-Thébaud, Steven Nacolis, Léa Pérat, Florian Perez, Marion Pincemaille, Sophie Planté , Cyril Vera-Coussieu. Chorus of the Opéra national du Capitole (chorus master: Gabriel Bourgoin). Orchester national du Capitole, conductor: Frank Beermann

How lucky for Toulouse music lovers to be able to enjoy a show of such high quality with this entry into the repertoire of Rusalka !


“The lyrics sounded like magic formulas,” according to director Stefano Poda on hearing Antonin Dvořák’s work in Czech for the first time. His universe, which is part of total art (the artist took charge, as usual, of all the work of staging, sets, costumes, choreography and lights) fully merges with the onirism of this lyrical tale, Stefano Poda in no way trying to make the spectator identify with what he sees on stage. The permanent stylization of the paintings, and particularly the gestures of the dancers and the direction of the actors, makes it a superb visual theatre, impressive by this basin sized to the entirety of the stage where the nymphs and the master of the waters appear from the seabed. The strength of this aestheticism is also the narrative readability it conveys: the vaporous light of the siren’s world contrasts with the hyper-controlled light of the electrical circuits of a digital world. Here again, the staging is particularly detailed, the movements of the sea creatures mixed with the movements of the waters they generate, are confronted with the authoritarian stiletto heels and the red iron gloves, completed by the violence of the gestures and the silent screams of the humans.

In the same vein, here, the characters are symbols evolving in allegorical paintings that Stefano Poda sublimates with a relevant and precise look. Contrary to what Anita Hartig affirms when evoking this role-taking in the review of the Theater, the protagonists of this story do not show any evolution, depth or facets. It is also amusing to read the opposing approaches between the singer and the director in these two interviews transcribed by Dorian Astor.

The intonations of the Czech language resonate again in the Théâtre du Capitole, and still excite this evening, particularly in the mouth of Aleskei Isaev who imposes a royal charisma as much as a touching pain. The depth of timbre of the bass-baritone, the dark reliefs of the words it breathes, and the physical performance imposed by the staging are impressive. The singer is indeed the only one to constantly swim in deep water, sometimes even putting his head first in the water, the only exception made in his heartbreaking aria from Act II where the father’s disarray materializes by crawling on the water mirror. The appetizer of the three nymphs embodied by the sopranos Valentina Fedeneva, Louise Foor, and Svetlana Lifar is a pure wonder as the voices complement each other in an admirable fusion and purity.

We would have liked to say the same of the holder of the title role who had shone in this same theater in the skin of Violetta. Anita Hartig’s timbre seems very acidic with an inappropriate bite, and the lyricism of the song is a little too tenuous for this innocent and fragile young siren. But the soprano has theatrical talents that will make this disappointment forgotten, so much the singer is inspired by the disarray of this rejected lover. At his side, Piotr Buszewski portrays a flamboyant and ideally seductive prince, as the projection is marked and the highs brilliant.


In the supporting roles, it’s hard to blame the lack of opulence in the bass of Claire Barnett-Jones who took over from Janina Baechle at the last minute, even if her witch costume helps her establish a fine authority. Fabrice Alibert (Le Garde Forestier) and Séraphine Cotrez (Le Marmiton) provide a complementary duo in the middle of their plastic bottles, while the performance of Béatrice Uria-Monzon remains very limited in the guise of the Foreign Princess.

In the pit, under the baton of Frank Beermann, the Orchester national du Capitole offers listeners a great show. Dvořák’s post-romantic poetry unfolds with marvelous power and drama. We delight without measure in the symphonic flavors of the master as the direction pays constant attention to it. The risk would have been that this instrumental wave would break on a plateau victim of its flamboyance: there again, Frank Beermann masters all the codes so that the vocal distribution is supported rather than drowned by so much eloquence.

Photo credits: © Mirco Magliocca

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Toulouse. Capitol Theater. 09-X-2022. Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904): Rusalka, lyrical tale in three acts to a libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil. Direction, sets, costumes, choreography and lights: Stefano Poda. With: Anita Hartig, Rusalka; Piotr Buszewski, The Prince; Aleksei Isaev, The Ondin; Béatrice Uria-Monzon, The Foreign Princess; Claire Barnett-Jones, Ježibaba; Valentina Fedeneva, First Nymph; Louise Foor, Second Nymph, Svetlana Lifar, Third Nymph; Fabrice Alibert, the Forester / The Hunter; Séraphine Cotrez, the Marmiton. Jorge Calderon Arias, Maud Boissière, Juliette César, Arthur Delorme, Xavier-Gabriel Gocel, Elise Griffon, Izaskun Insausti Lorente, Marine Jardin, Antoine Lecouteux, Grégoire Lugué-Thébaud, Steven Nacolis, Léa Pérat, Florian Perez, Marion Pincemaille, Sophie Planté , Cyril Vera-Coussieu. Chorus of the Opéra national du Capitole (chorus master: Gabriel Bourgoin). Orchester national du Capitole, conductor: Frank Beermann

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