Rachel Willis-Sørensen and Kristinn Sigmundsson sing in San Francisco Opera’s “Rusalka.” (Courtesy Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera)

Rachel Willis-Sørensen and Kristinn Sigmundsson sing in San Francisco Opera’s “Rusalka.” (Courtesy Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera)

SF Opera bewitches with ‘Rusalka’

Outstanding singers soar in principal roles

San Francisco Opera brought back Dvořák’s masterpiece “Rusalka” for the first time since 1995 and the second time in its history Sunday afternoon, with an outstanding cast that rose above the mistiness of the woodsy, watery and supernatural world of David McVicar’s enchanting production new to SFO.

Leah Hausman directs this revival of McVicar’s Lyric Opera of Chicago production of “Rusalka,” which was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué’s “Undine.” It begins with sonorous soprano Natalie Image and mezzo-sopranos Simone McIntosh and Ashley Dixon as wood nymphs gamboling in an eerie forest whose mystical lake bubbles over with thick vapors and strange denizens.

Among those lake dwellers, the powerful bass Kristinn Sigmundsson as the water goblin Vodnik soon emerges and, befitting a Father’s Day opening performance, resonantly offers father-knows-best advice tinged with sadness to his restless, lovestruck daughter, water nymph Rusalka. He touchingly urges Rusalka to stay, but reluctantly suggests she consult a witch to find love, and later achingly laments the consequences of her decision to quit their liquid realm.

Soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen brought a sumptuous voice and willowy stage presence to her role debut as Rusalka, who tells her father she is captivated by a handsome prince she has seen swimming in the lake and wishes to become mortal to experience the bliss of romance with him. Willis-Sørensen’s gorgeous rendition of Rusalka’s Act 1 showpiece soliloquy “Song to the Moon” offered a dreamy taste of a voice about to be silenced by witchcraft.

As the witch Jezibaba, the dynamic mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton cast a spell on Rusalka that made her a human the prince would notice and fall in love with, but with the downsides that she becomes mute to mortals and their union will end in tragedy should he be unfaithful to her. Barton vocally soared and was spellbinding in her spooky aria “Cury mury fuk” (“Abracadabra”) as she concocted the potion that transformed Rusalka into a double-edged bearer of love.

Appealing tenor Brandon Jovanovich cut a debonair figure as the Rusalka’s heartthrob, the Prince. As soon as Jezibaba’s potion takes effect, Rusalka wins the Prince’s affection; Jovanovich serenades her with a warm voice of passion and beauty. That ardor ebbs as Rusalka’s muteness wears thin on the Prince and a foreign princess (soprano Sarah Cambidge) charms him at his castle in Act 2, but his and Rusalka’s love reignited with an exquisite, yet tragic, final duet in Act 3.

Making her SFO debut, Korean conductor Eun Sun Kim offered a sample of her talent with a lovely account of the Act 1 prelude, and then luminously proceeded through the rest of Dvorak’s score.

REVIEW

Rusalka

Presented by San Francisco Opera

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. June 19, June 22, June 25 and June 28

Tickets: $26 to $398

Contact: (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com

Classical Music

Just Posted

A large crack winds its way up a sidewalk along China Basin Street in Mission Bay on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s sinking sidewalks: Is climate change to blame?

‘In the last couple months, it’s been a noticeable change’

For years, Facebook employees have identified serious harms and proposed potential fixes. CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pictured in 2019, and COO Sheryl Sandberg have rejected the remedies, causing whisteblowers to multiply. (Eric Thayer/New York Times)
Facebook’s problems at the top: Social media giant is not listening to whistleblowers

Whistleblowers multiply, but Zuckerberg and Sandberg don’t heed their warnings

Maria Jimenez swabs her 7-year-old daughter Glendy Perez for a COVID-19 test at Canal Alliance in San Rafael on Sept. 25. (Penni Gladstone/CalMatters)
Rapid COVID-19 tests in short supply in California

‘The U.S. gets a D- when it comes to testing’

Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led a late-game comeback against the Packers, but San Francisco lost, 30-28, on a late field goal. (Courtesy of San Francisco 49ers)
The Packers beat the Niners in a heartbreaker: Don’t panic

San Francisco is no better and no worse than you thought they were.

A new ruling will thwart the growth of solar installation companies like Luminalt, which was founded in an Outer Sunset garage and is majority women-owned. (Philip Cheung/New York Times)
A threat to California’s solar future and diverse employment pathways

A new ruling creates barriers to entering the clean energy workforce

Most Read