Rusalka is a water nymph. She looks like a beautiful girl down to the waist, and a fish from the waist down. She lives with her father and sisters deep in a forest pool and is invisible to human beings.
Although she has no soul, and no human heart, she falls in love with a human Prince and becomes a woman for his sake. Unfortunately it doesn't work. She might look like a woman, but inside she remains a nymph.


Ježibaba is a witch. She is a mezzo soprano (a bit lower than a soprano) but often sounds like a contralto – that's the lowest female voice. She stands no nonsense from anyone. She tells Rusalka exactly what she thinks of her daft wish to become a woman, predicts it'll end in tears, and tells Rusalka she'll have to murder the Prince if she wants to become a real nymph again. She's a practical woman...

The Kitchen Boy

The Kitchen Boy works in the Prince's kitchen. He is sung by a woman (the music would be too difficult for a real kid) and his music has the same rhythm and bounce as the Gamekeeper's.

The Foreign Princess

The Foreign Princess is beautiful, passionate and as cold as ice. She too is sung by a soprano and turns up in Act 2 simply to make trouble. She is furious the Prince is marrying someone else and is determined to break up the wedding. Once she's done that, she drops the Prince. She never cared for him anyway.


Vodník is a water goblin and Rusalka's father. He is sung by a bass (the lowest male voice) and, though the bass voice is good for yelling at people and cursing them – both of which Vodník does – Dvořák shows how gentle the voice can sound as well.

The Prince

The Prince is the typical hero of a fairy story. Young, handsome and easily confused. He lives near an enchanted Forest but doesn't know how unwise it is to hunt the strange creatures that live there or swim in its magic pools.

Though he eventually betrays Rusalka, the Prince really does love her. His passionate music comes straight from the heart.

The Gamekeeper

The Gamekeeper is a tenor. He is a servant of the Prince, and the Kitchen Boy is his nephew.

Teachers' Guide

Teachers' Guide notes are available as downloads:


Rusalka   is an opera by the Czech composer Antonín Dvořák and was first performed in Prague in March 1901.

The opera is sung in Czech, but don't worry – the English words are shown above the stage, in surtitles, and you'll find it very easy to follow.

This site is about the opera, the story, the characters, and what the music sounds like. You can find this stuff by clicking on the toolbars

The heroine, Rusalka, is sometimes called a nymph or a sprite. Some people think she's a fairy and the singer who played Rusalka in London last year said, 'the trouble is, I'm playing a fish...' Perhaps 'alien' is perhaps the best way to describe her.