The Bartered Bride continues Chandos' series Opera in English, and it succeeds admirably in this spirited and well-sung performance. The quality of translation is a critical element in the success of an endeavor such as this. Happily, the version by Kit Hesketh-Harvey (who also has a small role in the opera) is rendered into idiomatic and singable English. There is a whiff of W.S. Gilbert in the broad humor and in the rhyme schemes, but that is not entirely inappropriate, as the plot has some typically Gilbertian twists and characters and given the music's occasional similarities to that of Arthur Sullivan.
Soprano Susan Gritton as Marenka and tenor Paul Charles Clarke as Jeník are adorably fresh and young sounding as the couple faced with the dilemma of Marenka's imminent arranged marriage to the village dullard, and they deliver their intimate banter with humor and lightness. The singers in the supporting roles are comparably strong. Bass Peter de Rose is hilarious as Kecal, the unctuous marriage broker, and baritone Neal Davies and mezzo-soprano Yvonne Howard bring warm and supple voices to the roles of Marenka's parents. Tenor Timothy Robinson captures both the humor and poignancy in Vasek, Marenka's intended bridegroom.
The Philharmonia Orchestra and the Royal Opera House Chorus, under the leadership of Charles Mackerras, play and sing with exuberance and panache, bringing out both the lightness and lyric sweep the opera requires. Chandos' sound is clear, and effectively conveys the spatial relationships of a stage production. The performance is a compelling argument for this attractive and tuneful work that is seen too rarely in American opera houses.