Monday, 27 February 2012

Rusalka ROH Bryan Hymel

Antonin Dvořák's Rusalka opens tonight at the Royal Opera House. It's the first full staging, though the opera was performed in concert form a few years ago.  Great cast - Camilla Nylund, Alan Held and Bryan Hymel and the long awaited ROH debut of Yannick Nézet-Séguin. (For my review see here).

Hymel first sang The Foreign Prince at the Wexford Opera Festival, and now it's become one of his signature roles. He's a high lyric tenor, like Piotr Beczala who sang the part in the original Salzburg production. Voice type makes a difference, musically, even though the fashion these days is for Italianate and heavier voices. Dvořák wrote the part for a bright, agile voice type, so it "shines" as the Foreign Prince might have appeared shining to Rusalka, who was used to the darkness of her nocturnal lake.

The Foreign Prince isn't really a Romantic hero because he treats Rusalka badly. That's what happens to women who have nothing to say!  On the other hand, he's youthful like Rusalka seems to be, and like her learns wisdom through tough experience. Read what Hymel says about singing the part HERE in an interview with Opera Today.

It seems strange now that Rusalka was once relatively obscure (hence Wexford) though ENO did a staging 27 years ago. That was the one where the Rusalki were shown as children in a sterile Victorian nursery which is fine for the sexual repression in the story but is only part of what the opera is about. Fashions change in opera, and in voice types and in singing styles, just as speech changes over time. Listen to tapes of people talking in the 1920's or even 1950's.  So it's healthy that there's a shift towards astute performances of repertoire. Hymel mentions a renaissance in French repertoire and French aesthetics. It's already under way, with the plethora of Massenet and Berlioz we're hearing these days. A whole new terrain !
Lots more on Dvořák and other Czech composers on this site - please explore.

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