Antonin Dvorak fell in love with the story of Rusalka as soon as he laid eyes on the libretto, and it was an immediate success when it premiered at the National Theater in Prague in 1901. Based primarily on two fairy tales (Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and Friedrich de la Motte Fouque’s “Undine”), it tells the story of a water nymph who falls in love with a prince and trades her voice to become human. Contrary to the Disney version, the story ends tragically for Rusalka. She is betrayed by the man she loves, and she is doomed to spend the rest of her life trapped between the immortal world of the water nymphs and the mortal human world.

Rusalka’s journey is one of extraordinary transformation — from nymph to human, from mortal to immortal, from water to land, from family to isolation, from love to betrayal, and from longing to resignation. We hear it all in Dvorak’s lush score, and we quickly understand why this opera is considered a national treasure in the Czech republic.

In this episode, Merrin Lazyan and Julian Fleisher speak with WQXR overnight host Nimet Habachy about Dvorak’s supernatural masterpiece. We also hear from soprano Kristine Opolais about her special connection to this role, about the betrayals we face, and about the sacrifices we make for love.