Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)

Composer and conductor. In 1898 he presented the world premiere of Dvořák’s A Hero’s Song with the Vienna Philharmonic. In 1901 Mahler sought to stage Rusalka at Vienna’s Hofoper, where he was artistic director in the years 1897–1907. Dvořák, who had his whole life tried without success to establish his stage works abroad, welcomed this initiative and, in September 1901, travelled to Vienna to present Mahler with his own score of the opera. Mahler and Dvořák subsequently entered into correspondence concerning conditions for staging the opera. For a long time the Hofoper’s management rejected Dvořák’s somewhat excessive financial demands, nevertheless, after Mahler’s intervention, they were accepted after several months of negotiations. For a number of reasons, however, the Hofoper repeatedly postponed the premiere of Rusalka. Gustav Mahler’s sentiments must have played a role here: after a thorough scrutiny of the score, he was now inclined to believe that the opera would not be a success. Dvořák would not live to see a performance of Rusalka at Vienna’s Hofoper; it was finally staged there many years later, in 1987.