Lyrical fairy tale in three acts
Libretto by Y. Kvapila
The first nymph
The second nymph
The third nymph
Prince’s retinue, guests, forest nymphs, mermaids.
The action takes place in a fairy-tale country in fairy-tale times.
HISTORY OF CREATION
In the winter of 1899-1900, immediately after the successful premiere of the comic opera “The Chert and Kacha”, Dvorak began to look for a libretto for a new composition. The Czech poet, playwright
and theatrical figure Jaroslav Kvapil (1868-1950) offered the composer a just-finished libretto for the “Mermaids”. The plot, common for fairy tales and legends of many peoples, was attracted at one time by a remarkable Danish poet and fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, who created on his basis a wonderful fairy tale “The Little Mermaid.” It is a deeply exciting story of all-conquering love, not retreating before suffering and death itself. Dvorak immediately took a great interest in the poetic story, talentedly developed in the libretto, and began to create the score, which was completed in November 1900. His new opera was given a subtitle “lyrical fairy tale”, very accurately defining its genre features. The premiere of the opera took place on March 31, 1901 on the stage of the National Theater in Prague and was a great success. Until now, “Mermaid” – one of the most popular works of the Czech opera repertoire. In the Soviet Union, it was staged under the title “Great Love” or “Love Mermaids.”
All music “Mermaids”
– the nature of tunes, recitations, the depiction of real and fantastic characters, paintings of nature – is distinctly national, and at the same time typical Dvorzhakovskaya. The unique creation of the Czech artist is distinguished by unique poetry, richness of psychological shades. The environment of the action – images of the lake, forests and their fantastic inhabitants – not only serve as a background for a personal drama, but also merge with it into a single whole, which is supplemented by genre-household episodes.
Overture is based on the main musical themes of the opera. The gentle and poetic theme of the Mermaid in her dramatizes, as if foreshadowing the sad fate of the heroine.
Fantastic sounds accompanied by the beginning of the act; music draws a mysterious midnight forest, a dull lake, animated by the cheerful singing of forest nymphs. The Mermaid’s Appeal to the Waterman “Often comes he” is sustained in the spirit of folk song, and the subsequent her aria “My Month in the Far Skies” is full of soft femininity and sincerity. The scene of the Mermaid and Baba Yaga is also endowed with a fantastic color; At the end of the scene of transformation is the sorrowful recitative phrase of Vodyanoy: “Poor Mermaid, Grief, Woe!” The meeting of the Mermaid and Prince is characterized by a passionate lyrical monologue of the young man, while the feelings of the dumb Mermaid express the orchestra.
The second act opens with the genre and everyday scenes of the Forester and the Cook. A small orchestral episode returns the music to a lyric-fantastic sphere. Arioso Prince “For many days, as you are with me” marked by warmth and sincerity. In the scene of the Prince and Princess, the orchestral part conveys the dismay and fear of the Mermaid, and after their departure, the Mermaid’s motif acquires a new color, beginning to sound like a kind of requiem for her love and hopes. At the heart of the subsequent ballet scenes are the motifs of the Mermaid and Prince. Aria of Water “The whole world will not replace you” is full of sadness; in his party there are soft singing intonations. The action develops in two plans: a celebration in the park, a joyful relaxed guest choir and Vodian’s monologue, intermittently interrupted, like a refrain, with his phrase “Woe, woe… It’s a pity for the Poor Mermaid” (this phrase ” first sounded in the first act). Mermaid Aria “In vain, in vain” is full of deep drama, like the music of the final act.
In the third act, the aria of the Mermaid “The Youth I Have Ruined” sounds sad and simple, like a folk song. Arioso Baba Yaga “Sweet you threw” consists of separate short phrases, reminiscent of the intonations of folk spells, conspiracies. The mermaid’s chorus is bright and transparent. In the scene of the Forester and the Cook with Baba Yaga, genre-household and fantastic features are combined. Serene singing and dances of forest nymphs bring a new contrast. Arioso Prince “My white deer” is full of anguish and excitement. Arioso Mermaids “Oh, what are you calling me”, starting peacefully, gradually becomes more and more excited. In the finale of the opera the leitmotif of the Mermaid is transformed into a funeral march; the Prince’s leitmotif sounds chorally; the last chords are enlightened.