Rusalka, Bayerische staatsoper
At first, I said "oh no, they have turned Rusalka into a kitchen sink drama". How wrong I was! It is more of a horror movie!
I dutifully watched the blu-ray of this version of Rusalka to the end, although I was tempted on many occasions to turn the whole thing off. But right in the middle of it, I took the booklet that comes with the disc, I read it and I can only say I wish I had known beforehand, because I would not have wasted my money, my time, and I would not have felt so puzzled, then annoyed, and then so angry at all the talents wasted.
But first things first, to quote from the booklet, this is "a radically different interpretation", "Martin Kusej's Rusalka attempts to flee in an act of self-emancipation that founders on her own damaged psyche and on the inability of the various parties to speak to one another". She "reminds us here of Natascha Kampusch, the young woman from Vienna who for over eight years was held prisoner in an underground dungeon by a psychopathic abductor before she finally managed to escape." And for good measure, Kusej also casts the Water Goblin as the psychopath, "while also investing him with features of Josef Fritzl, who in 2008 hit the headlines as the 'incestuous father of Amstetten' for having locked up his own daughter in a cellar for twenty-four years and for fathering eight children with her."
I wish Amazon had put that more clearly in the synopsis of the blu-ray!
The blu-ray is picture perfect, the sound is PCM stereo /DTS-HD MA 5.0 and the singers do sing beautifully, but they all seem to have escaped from a horror movie. The Water Spirit quite obviously has sex with his children, the water nymphs, one of them is only a child. He is unkempt, and wears a T-shirt with the obligatory ketchup stain on it! Jezibaba looks like a transvestite (perhaps not from Transylvania), and Rusalka, well, true, she is beautiful and is an excellent actress too, she plays the retard very well (shall I get sued for this?), but then, we don't understand how the Prince can fall for her. Of course, I am stupid! He is a man, he is mad, he is also a psychopath! How else can we explain that he sings about a divine vision when he sees her for the first time (and remember, she looks like a retard!) and he points his rifle at her?
And how can we explain the "ballet" when women and men all wear white bridal dresses and gyrate on the stage, each of them carrying the skinned carcass of a doe? And at the end, they all fall down, and then start eating the entrails of the animals?
And then of course, the Prince humps the foreign princess on stage (probably two extras doing it, not the singers themselves!)
Should I add that the forester is also a dirty old man and he (oops, spoiler!) gets killed by the Water Spirit? And the nymphs/daughters at the end are all in some sort of lunatic asylum, where, we don't know how or why, the prince also finds himself, and Kristine Opolais/Rusalka shows once again how good she is at playing a lunatic, and she kisses the Prince, but as it is a realistic horror story, it is not enough to kill him, so he has to stab himself too.
I have only recently taken to operas, but I have already seen many times the dvd with Renee Fleming, recorded in 2002 at the Paris Opera, and I saw Rusalka in Praha in April (and I must say I enjoyed it immensely and my Czech friends were so happy I enjoyed it).
I love the 2009 Salzburg Cosi Fan Tutte, it is "modern", but Claus Guth staging is truly imaginative, even though it is darker at times with Don Alfonso being more of a devil than the more genial Don Alfonso from the more "traditional" 2006 Glyndebourne production.
But this, this is a travesty! So if you like things that are uncalled for, things that can't be explained, then go ahead, buy it. Otherwise, you have been warned.
I do read reviews before buying, they help me to make up my mind, so I am just returning the favour.