What would you sacrifice for happily-ever-after?

A water nymph falls in love with a human prince. A witch agrees to make her human – but the spell will break if she ever speaks.

Based on the classic fairy tale The Little Mermaid, Dvořák’s luxurious 1901 masterpiece travels from a mythical forest to a palace and back again. With a world populated by water sprites and royalty, its glorious score includes the famous “Song to the Moon.” Don’t miss the Madison Opera premiere of our first opera in Czech.

Friday, April 26 at 8pm
Sunday, April 28 at 2:30pm
Overture Hall
Sung in Czech with projected English translations

Run time: 3 hours, including 2 intermissions


Music by Antonín Dvořák
Libretto by Jaroslav Kvapil
Premiered 31 March 1901, Nationaltheater, Prague
Madison Opera Premiere


The water nymph Rusalka has fallen in love with a human—the Prince—when he came to swim in her lake. Now she wants to become human herself and live on land to be with him. Rusalka’s father, a water sprite named Vodnik, is horrified and tells her that humans are evil and full of sin. When Rusalka insists, claiming they are full of love, he says she will have to get help from the witch Ježibaba. Rusalka calls on the moon to tell the Prince of her love. Ježibaba arrives and agrees to turn Rusalka into a human—but warns her that if she doesn’t find love she will be damned and the man she loves will die. Also, by becoming mortal, she will lose her power of speech. Convinced that her feelings for the Prince can overcome all spells, Rusalka agrees and Ježibaba gives her a potion to drink. As dawn breaks, the Prince appears with a hunting party and finds Rusalka by the lake. Even though she won’t speak to him, he is captivated by her beauty and leads her away to his castle. From the lake, the voices of Vodnik and the water nymphs are heard, mourning the loss of Rusalka.


At his castle, the Prince wonders why Rusalka is so cold toward him but remains determined to win her. A Foreign Princess, who has come for their wedding, mocks Rusalka’s silence and reproaches the Prince for ignoring his guests. The Prince sends Rusalka away to dress for the ball and escorts the Princess into the castle for the beginning of the festivities.

In the deserted garden, Vodnik appears. Rusalka, who has become more and more intimidated by her surroundings, rushes from the castle in tears. Suddenly recovering her voice, she begs her father to help her, telling him that the Prince no longer loves her. The Prince and the Foreign Princess come into the garden, and the Prince confesses his love for her. When Rusalka intervenes, rushing into his arms, he rejects her. Vodnik warns the Prince of the fate that awaits him, then disappears with Rusalka. The Prince asks the Foreign Princess for help but she ridicules him and tells him to follow his bride into hell.


Rusalka waits by the lake once again, lamenting her fate. Ježibaba appears and mocks her, then hands her a knife and explains that there is a way to save herself: she must kill the Prince. Rusalka refuses, throwing the weapon into the water. When her sisters reject her as well, she sinks into the lake in despair.  Vodnik explains to the water nymphs what has happened to Rusalka, and they fall silent and disappear.

The Prince, desperate and half crazy with remorse, emerges from the forest, looking for Rusalka and calling out for her to return to him. She appears from the water, reproaching him for his infidelity, and explains that now a kiss from her would kill him. Accepting his destiny, he asks her to kiss him to give him peace. She does, and he dies in her arms. Rusalka asks for mercy on his soul and disappears into the water.


Emily Birsan

Madison Opera Debut: Barbarina, The Marriage of Figaro (2010)
Recently at MO: Juliet, Romeo & Juliet (2016); Opera in the Park 2016; Musetta, La Bohème (2015)
Recently: Violetta, La Traviata (Lyric Opera of Chicago, Nashville Opera, Indianapolis Opera); Donna Anna, Don Giovanni (Welsh National Opera, Florentine Opera); Susanna, The Marriage of Figaro (Boston Lyric Opera); Lauretta, Gianni Schicchi (Chicago Opera Theater); Musetta, La Bohème (Boston Lyric Opera)

Karin Wolverton
The Foreign Princess

Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Magda, La Rondine (Opera Santa Barbara); Jane Withersteen, Riders of the Purple Sage; Micaëla, Carmen (Arizona Opera); Mother, Hansel and Gretel (Jacksonville Symphony); Freia, Das Rheingold (Minnesota Opera); Mimì, La Bohème (South Dakota Symphony, Tulsa Opera)
Upcoming: Fiordiligi, Cosi fan tutte (Mill City Summer Opera)

Lindsay Ammann

Madison Opera Debut
Olga, Eugene Onegin; Erda, Das Rheingold and Siegfried; Schwertleite, Die Walküre; First Norn, Götterdämmerung (Washington National Opera); La Ciesca, Gianni Schicchi; La zia principessa, Sour Angelica (Metropolitan Opera); Azucena, Il Trovatore (Central City Opera); Orfeo, Orfeo ed Euridice (Florida Grand Opera); Mrs. Quickly, Falstaff (Opera Omaha, Opera Saratoga); Rossweisse, Die Walküre (Lyric Opera of Chicago)
Upcoming: Maddalena, Rigoletto (Opera Theatre of St. Louis); Amelfa, The Golden Cockerel (Dallas Opera); Flosshilde, Götterdämmerung (Lyric Opera of Chicago)

John Lindsey
The Prince

Madison Opera Debut: Opera in the Park 2018
Recently: Froh, Das Rheingold (Arizona Opera); Steva, Jenufa (Pacific Opera Victoria); Jonathan Dale, Silent Night (Michigan Opera Theatre); Narraboth, Salome (Minnesota Orchestra); Ben Marco, The Manchurian Candidate (Austin Opera); Don José, Carmen (Opera San Jose); Monostatos, The Magic Flute (Cincinnati Opera, Minnesota Opera); Lloyd, The Shining (Minnesota Opera); Joe, La Fanciulla del West (Des Moines Metro Opera)
Upcoming: Jonathan Dale, Silent Night (Austin Opera)

William Meinert

Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Il Commendatore, Don Giovanni (Baltimore Concert Opera); Uberto, La Serva Padrona (Commonwealth Lyric Theater); Le Philosophe, Chérubin; Dulcamara, The Elixir of Love (Peabody Institute); Aeolus, Cold Genius, King Arthur (American Bach Soloists Academy); Private Willis, Iolanthe (George Mason University)

Emily Secor
Wood Sprite

Madison Opera Debut: Mrs. Nordstrom, A Little Night Music
Madison Opera Studio Artist
Recently: Gretel, Hansel and Gretel; Nightingale, Country Lass, The Enchanted Child (University of Northern Iowa); Valencienne, The Merry Widow; First Lady, The Magic Flute; La Musica, L’Orfeo (Luther College)

Saira Frank
Wood Sprite

Madison Opera Debut: Sagredo / Duchess Christina, Galileo Gallilei
Recently at MO:  Kitty Hart, Dead Man Walking
Recently: Tosca, Tosca (Painted Sky Opera, Pacific Opera Project); Sandman/Dew Fairy, Hansel and Gretel; Bloody Bonnie, Paranormal Playhouse; Bella Rose, The Good, The Bad, The Divas (Fresco Opera Theatre); Beauty, Beauty and the Beast (Opera for the Young)

Kirsten Larson
Wood Sprite

Madison Opera Debut: Lola, Cavalleria Rusticana (2018)
Recently at MO:
Mrs. Segstrom, A Little Night Music (2019)
Madison Opera Studio Artist
Recently: Johanna, Sweeney Todd; Prince Olofsky, Die Fledermaus (Madison Savoyards); Fox, The Cunning Little Vixen; Meg Page, Falstaff; Baba the Turk, The Rake’s Progress; Cherubino, The Marriage of Figaro (Louisiana State University); Carrie, Carousel (Middleton Players Theatre)

Benjamin Liupaogo

Madison Opera Studio Artist
Madison Opera Debut:
Remendado, Carmen (2017)

Recently at MO: Mr. Erlanson, A Little Night Music (2019); Villager, Pagliacci (2018)
Rodolfo, La Bohème (UW-Madison); Sam Kaplan, Street Scene; Pastore I, L’Orfeo (DePaul Opera Theatre); Tamino, Die Zauberflöte (German for Singers Middlebury); Candide, Candide (Opera Notre Dame); Ferrando, Così fan tutte (San Francisco State University)

John DeMain

Madison Opera Debut: The Magic Flute (1994)
Recently with MO: A Little Night Music, Florencia en el Amazonas, The Abduction from the Seraglio, Carmen
Recently: Candide (Gran Teatre del Liceu); Porgy and Bess (Seattle Opera); Porgy and Bess, Sweeney Todd (Glimmerglass Festival); Lost in the Stars (Washington National Opera); Show Boat (San Francisco Opera, Washington National Opera)
Upcoming: Blue (Glimmerglass Festival)

Keturah Stickann
Stage Director

Madison Opera Debut
Recently: Pelléas et Mélisande (West Edge Opera); Orfeo ed Euridice (Florida Grand Opera); Turandot (San Diego Opera); Norma (Opera Southwest); Cold Mountain (North Carolina Opera); Orfeo, La Traviata (Chautauqua Opera); Lucia di Lammermoor (Opera Colorado); The Elixir of Love (Opera Birmingham); Moby-Dick (Dallas Opera, L.A. Opera)
Upcoming: It’s a Wonderful Life (San Francisco Opera); La Traviata (Washington National Opera)

Related Events


Kay & Martin Barrett

Millie & Marshall Osborn

Sally & Mike Miley

Kato Perlman

Charles and Martha Casey

John Lemke & Pam Oliver

The Ann Stanke Fund