Water Music: Katha Pollitt on Dvořák’s Rusalka

Check out Pollitt's piece in Opera News about Dvořák’s Rusalka, which opens at the Metropolitan Opera House this month. In "Water Music," opera aficionado Pollitt explores the history of Slavic opera and offers a feminist critique of doomed love:

There's something deep in these tragic tales of otherworldly women and mortal men, and in the network of associations in which they are enmeshed — water, beauty, silence, love, rejection, danger, vengeance, death. Set aside for a moment the overlay of nineteenth-century Romanticism that makes the heroine a sad-eyed ethereal teenager, and perhaps one can glimpse the origin of the story in a primeval awe of water, that powerful, mysterious, alluring element, giver of both life and death. But water is a metaphor as well. Writing in OPERA NEWS in 1993, John Simon suggested that the legend of Mélusine, that medieval prototype of the Rusalka story, is "a parable of the ultimate incompatibility of man and woman, of the impossibility of love." Woman as water, as Other; man as, well, human — distractible, fickle, shallow, forgetful.