Scottish Opera: Rusalka
- Carol Main
- 19 February 2016
The first opera to be conducted by Scottish Opera's new music director
There’s an abundance of excitement in the air for Scottish Opera just now. The Devil Inside, the company’s new opera written by Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh and first seen in January, is receiving much serious critical acclaim, while coming up is the first opera to be conducted by new music director, Stuart Stratford. The fact that it’s Dvořák’s Rusalka merely adds to the excitement.
Czech repertoire is very dear to Stratford’s heart and this particular opera is one on which he’s especially keen. ‘It’s a fantastic piece, close to Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, The Little Mermaid.’ While definitely pre-Disneyfication, it does, however, explore what it is to be human. ‘It is the character of the mermaid, Rusalka, who appears to have the most human characteristics,’ says Stratford. ‘In terms of psychology, the subtext is about jealousy and deceit, stealing someone else’s woman. Or you can look at it as stealing someone else’s fish. The themes are universal and just as relevant today as when it was first composed.’
Stratford is also thrilled with his cast. The French soprano Anne Sophie Duprels is someone with whom he has previously collaborated on Czech opera and he’ll be working with her again just as soon as Rusalka is finished. ‘She is one of the most touching, tender actresses,’ he says, ‘with an amazing, heart-breaking ability to reach out to people.’
Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw as the Princess is a name to watch out for, with much-loved Sir Willard White in the merman role of Rusalka’s father. The music is typically Dvořák’, with colourful folk tunes and Czech melodies aplenty, the most well-known being Rusalka’s ‘Song to the Moon’. It’s early days to announce Stratford’s future plans for Scottish Opera, but he even sounds excited while keeping quiet about them.
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Tue 5, Thu 7, Sat 9 Apr; Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 14, Sat 16 Apr.