I was stunned as I watched Robert Carsen's Jungian and stylistically unsurpassed staging of 'Rusalka' in Paris. And not less now that it's available on a gorgeously produced DVD. Some of the grandeur of designer Michael Levine's sets is impossible to recreate in a format that demands a variety of shots, long-shots, medium-shots, close-ups, but what we see is magnificent and tellingly so in the context of Dvorák's luckless mermaid.
In the first act the water surface is broken in a perfectly horizontal mirroring of a peach-coloured, utterly tasteful petibourgeois dream of human solidity and, well, a sort of happiness. When Rusalka enters the bedchamber, finally as a human being in her own right, the mirroring is vertical, so that everything that takes place around the marital bed is mirrored on the other side of the room. In the penultimate scene - as beautiful as any you're ever likely to see - the doublebed, turned over bedlamps, carelessly strewn red roses and messy sheets are hung on the back-wall, suggestively lit through gaze. A trophy? An eternal reminder of base human horniness?
What the close-ups do that an actual performance always have a hard time trying to do is get us up close and personal with the protagonists. This is, after all, a very human story of repressed sexuality, dreams and sublimation. Renée Fleming, enveloped in Dvorák's warm and sensual orchestra amidst evocative pizzicati, fully exploits her melancholic timbre with an instrument so well-focused and slender as a moonbeam.