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

A forest, once upon a time.

Deciding that life is too much to bear, a scorned young woman kills herself by drowning in a woodland lake.  Upon her death, she transforms into a water spirit.

The same forest, after time has passed.

A trio of Wood Sprites call out to Vodník, a water gnome, teasing him.  Rusalka, now a water spirit, appears.  She tells Vodník that she has fallen in love with a human – a Prince who comes to swim in her lake.  Now she wants to become human herself to be with him.  Vodník is horrified and tells her that humans are evil and full of sin – Rusalka counters that they are full of love.  He reluctantly tells her to get help from the witch Ježibaba.  Rusalka calls on the moon to tell the Prince of her love.

Ježibaba agrees to turn Rusalka into a human, but warns her that if she doesn’t find love, she will be damned – and the Prince will die.  Further, in 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 Vodník and the water nymphs are heard, mourning the loss of Rusalka.

~ intermission ~

The Prince’s castle, a week later.

As his castle busily prepares for a ball, the Prince wonders why Rusalka is so cold toward him, but remains determined to win her.  A Foreign Princess, who has arrived expecting to become engaged to the Prince, reproaches him for ignoring her.  The Prince, embarrassed, turns on Rusalka and escorts the Princess into the evening’s festivities.

Vodník appears outside the castle, lamenting Rusalka’s fate.  Rusalka suddenly rushes out in tears.  She begs Vodník 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.  Rusalka overhears and rushes into his arms, but he rejects her.  Vodník curses the Prince, then disappears with Rusalka.  The Prince asks the Foreign Princess for help, but she tells him to follow Rusalka into hell.

~ intermission ~

The forest.

Rusalka waits by the lake, lamenting her fate.  Ježibaba 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 away.  When her sisters reject her, she sinks into the lake in despair.  The Wood Sprites try to tease Vodník again, but he tells them what happened to Rusalka, and they fall silent.

The Prince, half-crazy with remorse, emerges from the forest, looking for Rusalka.  She appears from the water, reproaching him for his infidelity, and explains that now a kiss from her would kill him.  Accepting his fate, 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.

Behind the scenes with John DeMain

Sneak Peek at Rusalka

Favorite Line, Lyric, or Word

Story of the Opera

Rusalka Preview

Production Photos

Meet the Artists


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)

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