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Bedrich Smetana

The Bartered Bride

                               Smetana - The Bartered Bride
1. KRUŠINA, sedlák (baryton): zasl. umělec Jindřich Jindrák
2. LUDMILA, jeho manželka (soprán): Marie Veselá
3. MAŘENKA, jejich dcera (soprán): zasl. umělkyně Gabriela Beňačková - Čápová
4. MÍCHA, gruntovník (bas): zasl. umělec Jaroslav Horáček
5. HÁTA, jeho manželka (alt): Marie Mrázová
6. VAŠEK, jejich syn (tenor): Miroslav Kopp
7. JENÍK, Míchův syn z prvního manželství (tenor): zasl. umělec Peter Dvorský
8. KECAL, vesnický dohazovač (bas): Richard Novák
9. PRINCIPÁL KOMEDIANTŮ, (tenor): Alfréd Hampel 
10. ESMERALDA, komediantka (soprán): zasl. umělkyně Jana Jonášová
11. INDIÁN, komediant (bas): Karel Hanuš
12. KLUCI, (dětské role): Jaroslav Stůj, Roman Liška
13. VESNICKÝ LID: Pražský filharmonický sbor (Prague Philharmonic Choir) laureát státní ceny, sbormistr národní umělec Josef Veselka.

Balet Národního divadla v Praze (The National Theatre Ballet in Prague), choreografie (choreography) Otto Šanda.

It was after Austria’s defeat at the hands of Italy that the Czechs, around i860, began to cultivate their own arts in a deliberate encouragement of nationalism. Franz Josef’s government became less restrictive; national theaters started to be built; and native art music was needed (the Czechs always having had a fine native folk music). Smetana and, later, Dvorak were the most prominent serious composers developed under this nationalistic movement, and some of their orchestral music, at any rate, quickly was adopted by the whole Western world. But the only nineteenth-century Czech opera that has entered the repertoire of European and American opera houses is The Bartered Bride, and this was not originally written as an opera but as an operetta. It had two acts, twenty musical numbers, and spoken dialogue. The requirements of foreign opera houses soon caused Smetana to make his score more ambitious. Three years after the premiere, for performance at the Opera Comique of Paris, Smetana added an aria for the leading soprano as well as some dances, including the now famous Polka and Furiant; and the following year, for performance at St. Petersburg, the opera was divided into three acts and the spoken dialogue turned into recitative. It is in the final version that it is almost always played nowadays.


(Prodand Nevesta—Die verkaufte Braut)

Opera in three acts by Bedrich Smetana with libretto in Czech by Karel Sabina

Kruschina, a peasant
Katinka, his wife
Marie, their daughter
Misha, a wealthy landlord 
Agnes, his wife 
Wenzel, their son
Hans, Misha’s son by a first marriage
Kezal, a marriage broker
Springer, manager of a circus
Esmerelda, a dancer 
Muff, a comedian

Time: 19th century  
Place: a small Bohemian village  
First performance at Prague, May 30, 1866    



Baritone. A farmer, husband of Katinka and father of Marie. Owing money to his landlord Micha, he wants his daughter to marry Vašek, Micha's son, to clear the debt. Created (1866) by Josef Paleček.

Mezzo-soprano. Wife of Krušchina and mother of Marie. They want their daughter to marry their landlord Micha's son, in order to clear their debts. Created (1866) by Marie Procházková.

Marie (Marenka):

Soprano. Daughter of Krušchina and Katinka. She is in love with Jeník, about whose background she knows nothing. Her parents are anxious for her to marry Vašek, son of their landlord Micha, thus clearing their debts to him. She manages to convince Vašek that this would be unwise. It is later revealed that Jeník is also Micha's son, from his first marriage. Created (1866) by Eleanora Z. Ehrenbergů.



Bass. Husband of Hata, his second wife, and father of Vašek, proposed husband of Mařenka. Mařenka already has a lover, Jeník, who turns out to be Micha's son by his first wife. Created (1866) by Vojtěch Šebesta.

Agnes (Hata):

Mezzo-soprano. Wife of Micha, mother of Wenzel and stepmother of Jeník. Created (1866) by Marie Pisařovicová.


Wenzel (Vasek):

Tenor. Son of Micha and Agnes, he has a marked stammer. He is proposed as a husband for Mařenka, in order to clear her parents' debts to his father, their landlord. He meets Mařenka without realizing she is his prospective bride. She tells him he should not marry ‘Mařenka’, who will arrange his death if they are forced to marry, as she loves somebody else. When the circus comes to town, he is persuaded to take over for one of the troupe who is drunk—the part is that of a bear who dances with the beautiful Esmeralda. Created (1866) by Josef Kysela.

Hans (Jeník):

Tenor. Son of Micha by his first marriage, stepson of Hata. He is in love with Mařenka, who knows nothing of his past. He agrees to give her up on condition that she marries ‘only Micha's son’—he, of course, is the only one who knows the truth. When all is revealed, his father gives them his blessing. Created (1866) by Jindřich Polák.


Bass. A marriage‐broker, consulted by her parents about a prospective husband for Mařenka—they want her to marry Vašek, son of Micha and Hata. He talks her lover, Jeník, into giving her up, not realizing that he is also Micha's son. Created (1866) by František Hynek

Circus Master:

Tenor. Ringmaster of a troupe of circus artists who come to the village. Created (1866) by Jindřich Mošna.

Smetana -  "The Bartered Bride" (Prodaná nevěsta)
Elsie Morison as Mařenka (Krušina and Ludmila's daughter)
Victor Franklin as Jeník (Mícha's son by a former marriage)
Keith Nelson as Kecal (a marriage broker)
Raymond MacDonald as Vašek (Micha and Háta's son)
Arnaud Bonnett as Krušina (a peasant)
Muriel Luyk as Ludmila (his wife)
Alan Eddy as Mícha (a landowner)
Judith Staff as Háta (his wife)
John Young as Principál komediantů (ringmaster)
June Barton as Esmeralda (a dancer and comedienne)
Robert Bickerstaff as Indián (a comedian)
Elizabethan Theatre Trust Opera Company, 1957



Music lovers who have never heard The Bartered Bride in its entirety must still be quite familiar with the overture, as it has long been a standard part of the orchestral repertoire. Its themes are all heard a second time during the finale of Act II.


On the main square of a small Bohemian village a chorus of countryfolk sets the tone of the whole opera by singing gaily in praise of spring and of youthful love—with an added note of warning about the dangers of marriage. The two young lovers, Marie and Hans, alone are feeling sad, and when the villagers leave, their reasons become clear in a duet. Marie is bothered for two reasons. First, she knows that her parents are arranging a wedding for her with some unknown. Second, she knows nothing about the life of Hans before he recently came to this village. Hans is of a more sanguine nature. He assures Marie that all she needs to do is to remain steadfast to him, and no unknown suitor can take her away. As for the second point, he tells her that he came of a wealthy home, but his father's second wife did not like him, and so he has come away to seek his own fortune. The two lovers swear eternal faith very prettily, but they are interrupted when three older characters occupy the stage. These are Marie's parents— Kruschina and Katinka—and a comic marriage broker named Kezal. Their conversation reveals the fact that the parents are practically ready to give away Marie in marriage to the son of a rich man named Misha. Only the mother has some reservations. She thinks that Marie ought to be consulted.

When Marie hears of these plans, she firmly puts her foot down, announcing that she has already promised to marry Hans. The older folk are scandalized, and Father Kruschina goes off to talk the matter over with Misha, while Kezal decides to tackle Hans.

Once more the countryfolk gather on the stage, and the act closes with the very jolly Polka.

Act II

The second act begins with a drinking song at the local inn. It is punctuated with solos by the marriage broker, Kezal, in praise of gold, and by the young lover, Hans, toasting (of course) love. Then everyone joins in a dance.

Now, for the first time, we meet Wenzel, a pathetic figure of a young man—the son of the wealthy Misha and the candidate for Marie's hand. The poor fellow stutters and is dreadfully shy. He has never met Marie, but Marie knows who he is. And so, in a duet, she persuades him to give up the unknown Marie. That young woman, she says, has no use for Wenzel, no respect for him; she will make his life miserable; and, furthermore, there is a very pretty young girl in the village who is sighing her heart out for love of Wenzel. Finally Marie makes Wenzel swear that he will never even come near Marie. This number is followed by another long duet, a very comic one, in which Kezal tries to persuade Hans to give up Marie. Hans, he says, is too inexperienced to know that you must have money to marry. Nor does he know how dreadful women can become once they have caught their men. Better to remain single! And then, with complete lack of logic, he offers Hans a girl who has everything under the sun. He lists each item, and Hans repeats every detail after him. Furthermore, Kezal is prepared to offer 100 . . . 200 . . . no—300 gulden for giving up Marie. Give her up—to whom? asks Hans. Why, to the son of Misha, of course.

Now, Hans himself is really a son of Misha by Misha’s first marriage, but Kezal does not know this. Therefore, Hans is prepared to sign an agreement. He is to receive 300 gulden with the understanding that Marie must marry no one but the son of Misha. Everyone comes in to witness the signing of this document, and everyone is shocked that Hans should be willing to sell his fiancee. Only Hans knows that he will have the last laugh and that Marie will never be a “bartered bride.”


Alone on the town square, Wenzel bewails his failure to make love successfully in a comic aria marked lamentoso. Suddenly, with trumpets and drums, a circus troupe appears at the inn. Wenzel is childishly delighted. He hears Springer, the leader of the troupe, announce a performance that very afternoon, and he is enchanted—as is every audience—with the Dance of the Comedians. He also falls in love at first sight with Esmerelda, the pretty tightrope walker. But Muff, another member of the troupe, rushes in to announce that the fellow who plays the bear is hopelessly drunk. No one else of the right size can be found, and so Springer and the pretty Esmerelda persuade Wenzel to join the troupe-to learn to dance—and to be the bear!

Before he can go off with them, his parents interrupt. Agnes, Misha, and the marriage broker Kezal try to persuade Wenzel to sign the contract to marry Marie. But for once the boy knows his own mind: he absolutely refuses—and he runs off. Now it is Marie’s turn to be persuaded to agree to the marriage. Even her own parents join in, and when they show her the paper that her lover Hans has signed, her heart is broken. Pitifully she asks a few minutes to think it over. In a lovely sextet, the older people agree to give her some time, but they will soon return.

Marie now has a mournful aria, and she is not at all cheered up by Hans, who joins her in an annoyingly cheerful frame of mind. He, of course, knows that everything will turn out all right, but he does not have time to explain it to his girl. In fact; he only makes matters rather worse in their brief duet So, when Kezal offers him his money (according to the contract), he agrees readily, and everyone in the village is sure that Marie will make a lovely bride for Wenzel. At this point Wenzel’s parents enter, see Hans for the first time, and greet him as Misha’s long lost son. Thus everything is cleared up for the lovers, for the contract calls for Marie to marry Misha’s son, and it doesn’t say which son. Marie chooses Hans, and Kezal is laughed off the scene.

Now there are shouts: “Save yourselves! A bear’s got loose!” But it is only Wenzel, disguised in his bear’s suit. His mother drags him off; Misha blesses the happy young couple; and the opera ends as everyone joins in a chorus:
Hurray for the bartered bride!

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