Lyric fairytale in three acts - 1901

Composer Antonín Dvorák · Libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil
In Czech language with German and English surtitles

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Cast for all dates

James Gaffigan
Martin Kušej
Set Design
Martin Zehetgruber
Costume Design
Heidi Hackl
Reinhard Traub
Stellario Fagone
Olaf A. Schmitt

Der Prinz
Dmytro Popov
Die fremde Fürstin
Evgenia Muraveva
Kristine Opolais
Der Wassermann
Günther Groissböck
Die Hexe
Helena Zubanovich
Der Förster
Ulrich Reß
Der Küchenjunge
Yajie Zhang
1. Waldnymphe
Mirjam Mesak
2. Waldnymphe
Daria Proszek
3. Waldnymphe
Alyona Abramowa
Ein Jäger
Boris Prýgl
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Rusalka feels trapped in a world from which there is no escape. She is ready to put her immortality on the line in return for a human soul, so she can gain the love of a handsome prince. But she must pay for it with her voice. Muted and liberated from her dark world, she is forced to watch as the prince rejects her in favor of a foreign princess – dooming them both. She cannot live, she cannot die, yet nevertheless at the end, she helps the prince find his death with a “rescuing” kiss. 

In their opera Rusalka, which premièred in 1901, Antonin Dvořák and his librettist Jaroslav Kvapil mixed the Slavic myth of the undead vengeful woman from the water with such storybook characters as Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s Undine and Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. The fascinating musical worlds, the lyrical and highly dramatic moments came together to make Rusalka one of the most successful Czech operas ever written.

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The characters in Antonin Dvořák’s opera do not have names, they are referred to by their nature or what they do. Only Rusalka (the water nymph) and Ježibaba (the witch) have retained their Czech names in the German version.

Act One

Three wood nymphs are teasing the Water goblin, who tries to catch one of them. Rusalka, on the other hand, longs to escape from the watery element in which she lives and have a soul in order to be able to experience love for a human being. Not even the warnings of the Water goblin can change her mind. She begs the Ježibaba to grant her human attributes. In return Rusalka will lose the ability to speak. If she should fail to win the love of a human both she and her lover will be damned for ever by the curse of the watery powers.

Out hunting, the Prince follows the tracks of a white deer and comes across Rusalka. He is fascinated by her and takes her home with him to his palace.

Act  Two

Preparations are being made for a ball and in the course of these the Gamekeeper learns from the Turnspit that the Prince intends to marry the “strange being” which he had brought home from the woods a week earlier. The Prince reproaches Rusalka for her silence and lack of warmth. The Foreign Princess admonishes the Prince, telling him that he should be looking after his guests. Rusalka sees the two of them leaving together and remains on her own. The Water goblin has visited Rusalka and bemoans her fate. While he is there she gets her voice back and sees herself as a captive between life and death.
The Foreign Princess has won the Prince’s heart and he casts Rusalka aside. The voice of the Water goblin threatens that he will never be able to leave her embrace.

Act Three

In her despair Rusalka again seeks help from the Ježibaba, who tells her that only the shedding of the blood of her seducer can redeem her from the curse and allow her to return to the watery element. Rusalka, however, refuses to take the knife that is off ered to her and the water nymphs then cast her out. The Gamekeeper and the Turnspit come to ask the Ježibaba for advice about the confused Prince. When they maintain that Rusalka is responsible for his condition the Water goblin reminds them that the Prince jilted her and swears he will be revenged.

The Water goblin reminds the wood nymphs of Rusalka’s melancholy fate. The Prince seeks his jilted lover in despair and begs her for the kiss which will end his life. Rusalka begs for mercy for his soul.

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James Gaffigan, geboren in New York, studierte am New England Conservatory of Music in Boston sowie an der Shepherd School of Music der Universität von Houston. Von 2003 bis 2006 war er musikalischer Assistent von Franz Welser-Möst beim Cleveland Orchestra. 2004 gewann er den Internationalen Dirigentenwettbewerb Sir Georg Solti. Von 2009 bis 2012 war er fester Gastdirigent beim San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. 2010 wurde er Chefdirigent des Luzerner Sinfonieorchesters. Zudem ist er Erster Gastdirigent der Niederländischen Radio-Philharmonie. Gastengagements führten ihn u. a. zum London Philharmonic Orchestra, dem Orchestre de Paris, dem Orchestre National de France, dem Deutschen Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, der Staatskapelle Dresden, dem Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich, der Philharmonie Seoul sowie an die Metropolitan Opera in New York, die Wiener Staatsoper, die Staatsoper Hamburg und zum Glyndebourne Festival. (Stand: 2019)

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