IVÁN FISCHER AND THE BFO’S RUSALKA: A PERFECT INTERPRETATION
Gramofon.hu Mária Albert
We hope that one day a recording of the three Rusalka performances at the Palace of Arts will be made to enable us to recall the beauty of perfect performances. Dvořák’s opera was performed in a concert-like production by the Budapest Festival Orchestra conducted by Iván Fischer – in collaboration with Czech and Slovak soloists and the Czech Philharmonic Choir from Brno. The excellent Pavla Vykopalová took the leading role.
Our Rusalka is already far away: it will be played in Dortmund and in Bruges during the Budapest Festival Orchestra’s tour in spring with a final destination of the Lincoln Center in New York. There are more orchestral evenings than opera performances in this guest performance, but only Dvořák compositions are played: one programme features Piano Concerto in G minor (performed by Garrick Ohlsson), another Violincello Concerto in B minor as interpreted by Daniel-Müller Schott. The preparation for the tour and the immersion in orchestral works verifiably inspired the conductor and the orchestra to bring the opera alive. We rarely witness such a polished performance and perfect rendering or sound even if star orchestras and super productions are featured at the Palace of Arts. Dvořák as an opera composer is usually mentioned in condescending tones: only Rusalka is considered a mainstream piece out of his ten stage compositions. But let’s be honest: none of the music dramas of his contemporary Erkel has become as well known as the story of the mermaid.
One explanation could be the subject matter and the libretto. The story of Rusalka does not require special historical knowledge, but relates to the world of European legends and popular tales, thus the character types seem familiar, no matter if you are French or Hungarian. Dvořák’s piece demonstrates almost “weepy” lyricism here and there, while in some other places it is quite dramatic, but his simple musical language formulates a conflict that looks so familiar – love, loyalty, confusion, selfishness, devotion. We could add that the musical colouring of passions always falls within the boundaries defined by good taste. The concert-like performance of the orchestra playing with elementary enthusiasm on the podium also shed light on the composer’s symphonic talent. The direction of the instrument groups and master gestures that “spin” a figure or a picture all seem as if French tapestry from the 14th or 16th century had served as an example for the composing artist. The monumental piece was prepared with meticulous care. Most probably this is what made Rusalka so popular on the international opera scene over the past twenty-five years.
Without excellent performers the “caratage” of the piece of music would certainly not be as noticeable; this time each and every sound just had the right style and emotional validity. With two exceptions, all the singers on stage were young and unknown. Pavla Vykopalová (pictured) sang the leading role, whose abundant vocal talent is coupled with confident technique. It was also evident that Ales Briscein playing the role of the prince as well as the singers acting as wood sprites and the gamekeeper were well educated: Lucie Silkenová, Alzbeta Polácková, Michaela Kapustová and Jiri Brückler are worth noting, since we will probably hear about them again. Jolana Fogasová does not need introduced, she has performed in Budapest several times. The root of the emotions of Ježibaba, the witch and the beautiful foreign princess are the same – as presented by the singer. The role of Vodník, the water goblin was powerfully played by Peter Mikuláš. Each and every sound of the choir testified to the solid knowledge of their musical mother tongue as well as to high-level cooperation and perfectionism while performing.