Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Singing in Rusalka with North Carolina Opera

7:59 PM
Joyce El-Khoury as Rusalka, photo by Curtis Brown,  
© 2014 by North Carolina Opera

 Rusalka, which had its one, lonely showing on Sunday, was the fourth NC Opera show for which I've sung in the chorus. The others were, in order, Aïda, Così, and Bohème--all operas that I love, fantastic productions, and rehearsal processes I immensely enjoyed (I may or may not have cried tears of joy while sitting on the floor 10 yards from Angela Brown during her "O Patria Mia" in a staging rehearsal). But by the time each one closed, I was ready to see the back end of it. Not frantic, but ready--no matter how beautiful the music, it can get repetitive after a couple months. It's also always nice to be able to go home at the end of the day instead of rushing to rehearsal from the day job; and even nicer to eat something that doesn't come from the Jimmy John's equidistant between my day job & Meymandi.

Yet here I am on Tuesday morning, sipping my coffee, opening up my laptop, ready to enjoy day 2 of my week off from Music Together before spring classes start, and this is all I can hear in my head.1

It's not unusual to have this problem a few days after a production closes--what's unusual is how much I MISS it! I wish I had another rehearsal of this music to go to tonight. I do love Dvořák. And of course it's tough to find closure when there's only one show. Maybe it's also because we in the chorus were totally flying by the seat of our pants  the NCO administration showed amazing trust in the chorus and only called us for a handful of rehearsals. (I don't want to give you the wrong impression if you didn't see the show: it felt pants-seat-fly-y to me, but the consensus seems to be that we sounded pretty great.) 

Beda, beda . . . credit
I also have a soft spot for this opera for dramatic reasons. As you may know, Rusalka is basically the Czech folk version of the most important film of my childhood, The Little Mermaid. But unlike Ariel, Rusalka doesn't get a happy ending, and the Czechs are WAY more dramatic than Hans Christian Andersen. When Rusalka is rejected by her prince, she tries to return to the lake with her father and sisters, but they sadly remind her (at 1:30 above) that a water nymph can never come home after slutting it up with a human. It's a thing. But Rusalka is not boring enough to turn into sea foam: instead, we learn that Ursula's Ježibaba's curse has turned her into some sort of demon succubus. The Prince changes his mind and comes wandering past the lake. Rusalka kisses him and he DIES!! Scene.

Because of our light rehearsal schedule and the fact that I had to miss our first orchestra rehearsal for the sake of my gig in Winston last week, I didn't get a tears-of-joy rehearsal moment with our Rusalka, Joyce El-Khoury. But she was totally beautiful vocally (& visually), with a classic rich, supple lyric sound. Next month she's reprising the role of Rusalka at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. 

To me, the standout in this production was Russell Thomas as the prince. His voice is amazingly warm and vibrant, but what really amazes is not the height of beauty that he's capable of reaching, but the superhuman consistency with which he stays there. I would have happily listened to him perform the whole thing as a one-man show.

Thankfully, I don't have to grieve this show too hard. Other events are coming up that should quench my thirsts for Dvořák and drama. The Duke Chamber Players are giving a spring concert on Sunday featuring the New World Symphony, and the Leviathan Theatre co. is putting on a certain composer-themed bio-play that's near and dear to my heart. Keep your eyes on the blog for new reviews!

1 Can we talk about this video for a second? The part that is stuck in my head starts at 1:30, but if you start it a few seconds before you'll hear the most ill-chosen sound effect in opera-film history. Not even a microphone plunged into a clogged bathtub drain can ruin the beauty of Dvořák's music, however.

About the author

I'm Andrea. Everything you need to know is here.