Act I

Wood nymphs merrily dance and sing along by the lake. Rusalka sits forlornly on the shore. When Rusalka’s father, the Water Sprite, asks what the matter is, she replies that she has fallen in love with a human, who comes often to the lake. Now she wants to become human herself and live on land to be with him. The Water Sprite warns her that humans are evil and full of sin. Rusalka insists, claiming they are full of love and have an eternal soul. The Water Sprite says she will have to get help from the witch Ježibaba. Rusalka calls on the moon to tell the Prince of her love. Ježibaba agrees to turn Rusalka into a human – but warns her that if she doesn’t find love she will be damned and the man she loves will die. Also, by becoming mortal, she will lose her power of speech. Convinced that her feelings for the Prince can overcome all spells, Rusalka agrees. The transformation is complete.
The Prince appears with a hunting party and sees the beautiful maiden by the lake. Even though she won’t speak to him, he is captivated by her beauty and leads her away to his castle.

Act II

The palace servants gossip about the approaching wedding of the Prince and his strange new ride, whose name nobody knows. However, they refer to the old Háta living in the castle, who believes that this wedding will never take place. The Prince wonders why Rusalka is so cold toward him but remains determined to win her. A young lady, invited to the wedding by the old Háta, mocks Rusalka’s silence and reproaches the Prince for ignoring his guests.
Guests are gathering for the wedding and getting ready to celebrate. Rusalka is restless, convinced that the Prince no longer loves her. Rusalka’s father secretly appears in the castle and she begs him for help. The Prince is more and more fascinated by his guest and, irritated by the bride’s meek embraces, pushes her away. Rusalka’s father curses her treacherous groom. The Prince’s guest is frightened, she leaves the Prince and tells him to follow his bride into hell.


Betrayed and cursed Rusalka has returned to the lakeside forest and grieves for her fate. Ježibaba says that there is only one way Rusalka can be saved: she must kill the Prince. Rusalka refuses. She will not take away the life of her only love.
Her sisters reproach Rusalka for betraying and reject her as well.
The servants, who have been sent to the forest by old Háta, say that the Prince has been bewitched by a strange girl he was going to marry. They ask Ježibaba to save him. Enraged, the Water Sprite banishes them away, saying that it was the Prince who truly betrayed Rusalka.
The wood nymphs enter, singing and dancing, flirting with the Water Sprite, but when he explains to them what has happened to Rusalka, they fall silent and disappear.
The Prince, desperate and half crazy with remorse, emerges from the forest, looking for Rusalka and calling out for her to return to him. She appears from the water, reproaching him for his infidelity, and explains that now a kiss from her would kill him. Accepting his destiny, he asks her to kiss him to give him peace. She does, and he dies in her arms. Rusalka prays for his soul and disappears into the water.