Successfully staged across Europe for over a century and unjustly forgotten in Russia, Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka (1901) is for the first time in its history coming to the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. In Timofey Kulyabin’s interpretation, the tragic story of the mermaid who falls in love with a prince and wishes to become human has become a contemporary drama of a girl longing for love who gets lost in a romantic world she has herself invented. Dvořák’s story is turned on its head: instead of a mermaid aspiring to be human, Kulyabin presents to us a human protagonist who turns her life into a myth, and creates a cast of characters who are both fairy-tale and contemporary: the beautiful mermaid is munching on popcorn, the prince is staring at his smartphone, and majestic mountains and lakes give place to a hospital ward. Reality and fiction, layering over each other in the first and second acts, finally collide in the third. The protagonist goes through a personal transformation, eventually allowing herself to believe in love and beauty, but is still doomed to suffer. The spectacular set design and Dvořák’s magnificent music elevate her sadness to an even more sublime level, making the tragic ending completely inevitable.
‘All of my stories are about contemporary people, and creating a contemporary story with fairy-tale characters like Vodyanoy, Baba Yaga, forest nymphs and mermaids was definitely a challenge. All of these creatures had to become contemporary characters. And I was up for a challenge like that.’
The performance is in Czech language with Russian subtitles