It was quite a week for Renee Fleming. Starting with her singing for probably her biggest audience ever Sunday, and finishing yesterday with her singing for moviehouse audiences around the world in the Met production of Rusalka that was very much revived sheerly so she could star in a role now extremely closely associated with her, ever since during her young years she won the Met’s National Council auditions singing its famous “Song to the Moon.” Which is all very well and good, especially since she’s great enough to make anything starring her worth seeing, except that Rusalka isn’t the most ideal showcase for such things for a couple of reasons.
For one thing, Rusalka isn’t that good an opera. In terms of music, “Song of the Moon” is nice and so is the general feel of it, but it still doesn’t have anything that carries itself the way the greater operas do. Combine that with the plot not really making sense at the time, and though it’s stronger at the ending it still leaves the singers with a lot of work to do. And then, on top of that, said plot also mutes the title character for much of the second act. One can argue that gives Fleming a chance to really show her acting ability, but her real talent is still her singing, and when the opera’s weak anyway, you spend much of the second act waiting impatiently for her to start singing again.
The cast made it worth it enough, though, with Fleming getting a good amount of help from Dolora Zajick in the first act, John Relyea getting our interest in the opera back during his long aria in the second, and Piotr Beczala holding his own during the end. The set was impressive too, especially the atmospheric first/third act set.