For a first return to “direct”, the Bolshoi Rusalka , which entered the house's repertoire only in 2019, has no shortage of good surprises. The first, which unfolds throughout the show, lies in the astonishing blend of classicism and modernity of Timofei Kulyabin's staging . The customary Bolshoi spectator has the comfort of discovering, in the first act, a forest setting straight out of the romantic imagination, planted with trees with bare branches that twist on stone clumps above a waterfall. , inhabited by dryads dressed in blue tulle and a witch with a white, fleecy cape. A space-time opens up when Rusalka becomes human and loses her voice: she reappears on this same waterfall, sunk in a blue cinema armchair, pecking popcorn and sipping a soda through a straw, in front of the audience. Rusalka's first lesson will therefore be that human life is not another fairy tale, punctuated by princes and palaces, but a dive into a less canonically romantic modernity. But Rusalka's learning doesn't stop there. Her marriage to the prince takes place behind the scenes of a pink marble palace, with a small fountain decorated with a plaster mermaid (where the viewer has the impression, by the way, of being lost in the corridors of an opera). The ballet of the second act is the parade of ajet set very with the scent of the 2020s (and the taste of Moscow). Rusalka, sadly awkward in her wedding dress, then understands that the human being is cruelly social, that it is not enough therefore to have a body, even a soul, to integrate his society, but that it is necessary to master it. the codes ! The break between the real and the phantasmagorical worlds is now over. In the third act, the singers rediscover their folk costumes and their forest decor, under which, instead of the waterfall, a human double from Rusalka is dying, lying on a hospital bed, behind a curtain of rain. Like the duplication imagined by Robert Carsenfor his staging at the Paris Opera, Timofei Kulyabin installs two parallel shots, but impermeable: to the singers of the forest, perched on their rocks, actors wandering in hospital corridors will respond synchronously, as if to emphasize the parallel, and the divide, between a magical world, full of song and poetry, and a real world, silent and prosaic.
But the surprises also concern the song, where the excellent passages are not always what one expects. The ode to the moon by the soprano Dinara Alieva leaves nothing to be desired : no delicate modulations, diminuendi , little velvety sighs; his voice seems cut from the same block. But this block is a solid support that she uses convincingly to get carried away at the end of the second act, at the end of a marriage from which she comes out humiliated, or in the darker and more solemn tunes of the third act, as if his voice acclimated more to drama than to romance. Oleg Dolgovalso lacks nuances to express the tensions of the prince, viscerally attached to Rusalka but carnally magnetized by the foreign princess. He struggles against himself with a certain ardor, sparing some beautiful passages, in particular his farewell to Rusalka in the third act, but without giving the character the thickness that is due to him. However, we can fully understand his tension between sublime love and physical desire when Maria Lobanovaenters the scene, in the role of the foreign princess: perched confidently on high heels, her blonde curls cascading down her generously open cleavage, her flaming roars send chills! The Lithuanian singer perfectly illustrates the opposition that structures the work: in Rusalka, water; to her, fire!
The orchestral conduct of Ainārs Rubiķis , pleasantly regular, seems to play on this alternation of elements. Directly sprang from the rocks on which he appears, surrounded by the three dryads, the voice of Mikhail Kazakov, playing Vodnik, is undoubtedly the best of this set. Powerfully projected, expressive, with a grain of rock which perfectly suits the character of this father figure mixed with tenderness and severity, his outbursts of anger in the first act give him the air of Wotan in front of Brünnhilde, and the “rescue” of his daughter in the second act constitutes the lyrical climax of the show! Mikhail Kazakov thus gives importance to the relationship that Rusalka has with his father, to the detriment of the prince. Finally, the last good surprise of this show is the trumpeting voice of Yulia Mazurova in the small role of the marmiton (here a henchman of the prince).
As Vaclav Jamek wrote, emphasizing Rusalka's inscription in the lyrical tradition of his predecessors: “Dvořák's penultimate opera barely hangs on the 19th century: completed in 1900, premiered in 1901, it would even be a work between two centuries… ”. Timofei Kulyabin's staging makes it here an opera between two waters: head in the clouds of a deliciously supernatural world, feet mired in a disappointing human reality of materiality.