Lyric Opera of Chicago


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Ana María Martínez at a dress rehearsal of Lyric's new production of Rusalka.

Ana María Martínez in Glyndebourne’s production of Rusalka.

Ana María Martínez and Brandon Jovanovich

Dvořák's Rusalka is full of fairy tale magic: witches, water nymphs, princes, and enchantments that might seem far removed from life today. 

However, Rusalka’s story is easier to understand than one may think. “How many of us have had life-changing relationships that have ended in which we’ve been betrayed, yet not had the opportunity for closure?” asks soprano Ana María Martínez, who plays the title role in this new Lyric production. A relatable scenario indeed – so how does Martínez translate that into performance?

“I try as honestly as I can to walk in Rusalka’s shoes,” says Martínez of her preparation for the role. “The journey she undertakes is really tremendous.” A spirited water nymph, Rusalka just “wants to be human...she’ll sacrifice whatever it takes.” After falling in love with a human prince, Rusalka asks a witch for help. Alas, humanity comes with a price – she must lose her voice; and, if the prince betrays her, they’re both damned. High stakes, but Rusalka doesn’t budge. “She’s idealistic in that way,” says Martínez. “The purest form of love in all its capacities, that to me is Rusalka.” 

Captivated, the prince moves fast – too fast for Rusalka. After all, this is new terrain for her! “She’s doing this for the first time and she’s out of her element,” notes Martínez. “Talk to anyone who had their first experiences with romance when they were quite young – it usually wasn’t great!” It’s hard to leave your home behind, and Rusalka struggles. Martínez can relate, having moved from Puerto Rico to New York City at a young age: “I have to find my resources of personal experience and knowledge in order to portray her in an honest way.” 

Eventually, the prince is lured away by a human princess. Rusalka tries to return to the water, but is rejected by her family, a terrible blow. In the end, the prince returns to beg forgiveness and insists Rusalka kiss him, even knowing the cost; he dies in her arms. “After he’s sacrificed himself, even though she didn’t want him to, she’s able to bless him,” Martínez marvels. “You’re able to have full closure in that dialogue, the whole scene is tremendous. There are performances when I’m sobbing at the’s so powerful,” she admits. 

Come discover the power of Rusalka’s story Feb 22-Mar 16. This new production is conducted by Sir Andrew Davis and directed by Sir David McVicar. Starring Ana María Martínez, Brandon Jovanovich, Jill Grove, Eric Owens, and Ekaterina Gubanova.  

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New Lyric Opera Production.
 Generously made possible by The Monument Trust, an Anonymous DonorMarion A. CameronExelon, and Sidley Austin LLP, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Photos by Bill Cooper/Glyndebourne Productions Ltd.

Hear Ana María Martínez speak more about the character of Rusalka!


Suzanne Nance of 98.7WFMT and Lyric General Director Anthony Freud interview Ana María Martínez.

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