The 2008 Salzburg Festival production of Dvorák’s opera Rusalka was outstanding even by the Festival’s high artistic standards, its exceptional nature due in part to the fact that in the pit the Cleveland Orchestra was appearing for the first time as an opera orchestra in Salzburg. The high expectations raised by the orchestra and its Music Director, Franz Welser-Möst, were fully met, and even in the live recording of the opening night made by Austrian Radio, the orchestral colours and nuances retain their ability to dazzle us, while the conductor’s genuinely dramatic approach to the work is never less than gripping. In this way the fairytale narrative gains in psychological focus and depth, a state of affairs aided and abetted by the team of soloists headed by Camilla Nylund as Rusalka and Piotr Beczala as the Prince. She brings to the role of the water nymph a beautiful lyric soprano voice that retains its focus and penetrating power even in the score’s most dramatic outbursts, while the bright tenor voice of Piotr Beczala is sufficiently attentive to detail to produce a convincing vocal portrait of the hapless heroine’s inconstant lover following her decision to enter the world of mortals. The remaining roles, too, are cast from strength, notably the admonitory figure of the Water Goblin, taken here by Alan Held, whose powerful Wagnerian bass-baritone lends the role an impressive profile. No less imposing is the Ježibaba of Birgit Remmert, with her dark-hued, impressively full-toned voice. The brief but important scenes involving the Foreign Princess who seduces the Prince and seals the lovers’ unhappy fate are a highlight of the performance thanks to Emily Magee’s burnished soprano, with its brilliant upper register. Particularly gratifying in a Salzburg Festival production – and not always achievable within the constraints of an ensemble system – is the casting of minor roles with promising young singers, several of whom have advanced their careers by leaps and bounds in the course of the last three years – hardly surprisingly when one listens to the present recording and hears Eva Liebau as the Turnspit, Adam Plachetka as the Gamekeeper and the three well-modulated wood nymphs of Anna Prohaska, Stephanie Atasanov and Hannah Esther Minutillo. Appearing alongside this team of singers is the Vienna State Opera Chorus on outstanding form. All in all, then, it comes as no surprise to know that the response to the musical side of this production was entirely positive, a response which it is hoped will be repeated in the case of the present live recording.