Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride dates from the happiest, most musically fulfilling period in the composer's life. Authored in the 1860s, it reflected the full flowering of his compositional skills. He had previously written the historical opera The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and now desired to write a work that dealt with the Czech people. In that process, he tapped into Czech melodies that bloomed as he wrote. The libretto, by Karel Sabina, reflected the composer's desire to write an authentically Czech work, though Smetana ended up reshaping the opera several times. The first version contained spoken parts, which were converted to recitative by the final version. Ironically, while it is regarded at home as the essential Czech national opera, in other countries it is treated as a lighthearted folk opera. Its Czechness is based on Smetana's use of folk dance idioms and a more colloquial language, the rhythms of which fit the dance rhythms extremely well. There are very few ensemble numbers in the opera primarily because Sabina's libretto was not written with lines suitable for ensembles. Opening with a gorgeous, briskly paced overture, the music builds through running scales on the strings to bursts of exuberant melody on the winds, reeds, and brass. Act One opens on the Feast of St. Stephen; Marenka and Jenik declare their love for each other in a tender duet. Their love, though impassioned and sincere, seems doomed as Marenka's father has brokered her in marriage to Vasek, the dullish son of landowner Tobias Micha. In Act Two, Marenka meets Vasek -- who doesn't realize who she is -- and dissuades him from the marriage; meanwhile, the marriage broker Kecal persuades Jenik to accept marriage to a wealthy girl; he agrees on condition that Marenka marry the son of Tobias Micha. In Act Three, the village is host to a troupe of gypsy entertainers (whose performance includes the "Dance of the Comedians"). Vasek forsakes the arranged marriage in pursuit of a dancer; Marenka remains scornful of Jenik's seeming betrayal. Jenik's plan becomes clear in the final scene, when he is revealed to be Micha's long-lost elder son. All of the mismatched couples are sorted out and a family restored in a joyous finale. The Bartered Bride proved to be the only Czech opera to find a significant life far beyond Czech opera companies, particularly in Germany where, as Die verkaufte Braut, it was widely performed in German. It even entered the repertory of such renowned conductors as Rudolf Kempe, whose specialties usually extended to Wagner and Richard Strauss.
Description by Bruce Eder
- No. 2, Rejoice, let's be merry while the Lord grants us
- No. 3, Should I ever happen to learn something like that about you
- No. 4, While a mother's love means blessing
- No. 5, Faithful love cannot be marredby any former pledge or promise
- No. 6, As I'm saying my dear fellow, you have pledged your word
- No. 7, Things like these can't be fixed
- No. 8, He's timid and not used to female society
- No. 9a, You don't even suspect the hitch there's in it
- No. 9b, And where everybody fails it is his luck to succeed
- No. 9c, Polka
- No. 10, Beer's no doubt a gift from Heaven
- No. 11, Furiant
- No. 12, My... my... mother dear sa... sa... sa... said to me
- No. 13, I know of a maiden fair whose love for you is boundless
- No. 14, Every man maintains his wife is best
- No. 15, I know a girl, she's got the money, duet
- No. 16a, How could they believe I would ever sell my Marenka?
- No. 16b, Come inside, people! Listen to me!
- No. 16c, Is it really true that he renounced his sweetheart?
- No. 16d, Quite a bargain 'tis! He has for three golden gulden sold his sweetheart, Finale
- No. 17, I can't get it off my mind, my life is at stake!
- No. 18, March of the Comedians
- No. 19, Dance of the Comedians (Skocna)
- No. 20a, We shall make a graceful little bear of you
- No. 20b, What? He does not want her?
- No. 20c, Well then, she's Marenka, she's your future wife
- No. 21, Think it over, Marenka
- No. 22a, Oh, what a grief! what burning pain when a loving heart's deceived!
- No. 22b, That dream of love, how fair it was
- No. 23, Are you really so stubborn, dear, that you won't learn the truth?
- No. 24, Calm down, calm down, dear
- No. 25a, Now I shall call in your parents
- No. 25b, What have you decided, Marenka? Speak!
- No. 25c, Oh, he's a cunning man all right! I'm totally defeated!, Finale
- No. 25d, Ha ha ha ha
|2012||ZYX Music||CLABOX 007|
|2012||Harmonia Mundi||HMC 90211920|
|2006||Big Eye Music||4405|
|2001||Naxos Historical||8 110098/9|
|EMI Music Distribution||64002|
|Russian Compact Disc (RCD)||70041|