Kateřina Kněžíková Triumphs at Prague National Theatre as “A Reference Rusalka for Her Generation”

18 Mar 2024

A highlight of the 2024 Year of Czech Music has been the Prague National Theatre’s new production of Dvořák’s masterpiece ‘Rusalka’, and the honour of the legendary title role at the premiere was entrusted to favourite Czech soprano Kateřina Kněžíková. Critics from the Czech Republic and further afield found themselves reaching for superlatives:

“Kateřina Kněžíková excelled in both singing and acting. Rusalka is the role of her life, or at least one of them. Her colourful and expressively elaborate, emotionally warm performance was absolutely breathtaking, from the quietest tender pianissimis to the magnificent fortes and firm highs. We haven’t heard a Rusalka as good since Gabriela Beňačková.” – Svatava Barančicová, Opera Plus

“The Rusalka created by Kateřina Kněžíková at the first premiere was extraordinary in every way. She sings Rusalka naturally, with ease, intelligibly. Kněžíková takes all the strengths of her still lyrical, soft yet clear soprano to another level in this role; she is equally convincing across all dynamics and vocal demands. She unveils her voice impressively across the work’s trajectory. In the first act, she is more restrained, in the third act she stuns with full, sovereign high notes, and then moves us with a beautiful piano in the final moments. In addition she delineates the development of her character, and when we see her next to the dying prince, she is a completely different Rusalka than the naive nymph of the beginning. Kateřina Kněžíková has become one of the best Czech Rusalkas; she will be a reference for her generation.” – Lucia Maloveská, Klakika Plus

“One could not help but be fascinated by Kateřina’s Kněžíková’s intense Rusalka, perfectly convincing in its burning immediacy and in the absence of artifice, in perfect alignment with the rendition of the director and conductor. Triumphal success; theatrical work of rare beauty.” – Niccola Cattò, Musica

“Great experience with the role of Rusalka can be heard from soprano Kateřina Kněžíková in the title role. She handles her vocal material with real intelligence, singing most of the first act with telling restraint, which she could sustain thanks to her clear musical understanding with the conductor Netopil. Her ‘Song to the Moon’ sounds ideally like a girl singing by the lake, simple, unencumbered. In the third act, Kněžíková intensified colour and fuller volume, saving the greatest intensity with cathartic effect for the final moments. That’s the sign of a true artist.” – Michaela Vostřelová, Aktuálně

“I appreciated the suppleness of Kateřina Kněžíková’s cantilena at the premiere performance, and the way she coloured the melodic arcs, and delved into the depth of emotions. In the more dramatic arias of the disappointed Rusalka, she did not resort to putting pressure on her voice, which could disturb the softness of her soprano.” – Helena Havlíková, Opera Plus

A long-time resident artist at the Prague National Opera, and one of the most sought-after singers in her native Czech Republic, Kateřina appears regularly with all the Czech and Slovakian opera houses, and further afield at La Monnaie Brussels, Opéra Royal de Versailles, Opéra de Dijon, and many others. With a strong background in baroque and Classical repertoire (including Handel’s Almirena, Aristea in Mysliveček’s L‘Olimpiade, and Mozart’s Susanna, Ilia, Contessa, Donna Elvira, Vitellia and Pamina), and Italianate roles including Verdi’s Gilda and Nannetta, Adina (Donizetti L’elisir d‘amore) and Rosina in Rossini‘s Il barbiere di Siviglia, she has developed naturally into the lyric repertoire, notably as Rusalka (Dvořák), Mařenka (Smetana’s The Bartered Bride), Janacek’s Vixen, Martinů’s Julietta and Mirandolina, Barče (Smetana The Kiss), Terinka (Dvořák: The Jacobin), and Gounod’s Marguerite. In 2021, she made her debut as Káťa Kabanová at the prestigious Glyndebourne Opera Festival, and returns for this role in 2025. In 2024, her repertoire with the Prague National Opera includes Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Mimi in La Boheme, Micaela in Carmen, and her debut as Janacek’s Jenufa. She will also debut the title role in Smetana’s Libuse and the Fox in Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen in concert with the Czech Philharmonic.

Photo credits: Pavel Hejný

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