Major Operas | The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana | High Romantic
Composed: 1863–66; rev. 1869–70
Premiered: 1870, Prague
Libretto by Karel Sabina
While the villagers enjoy themselves at the fair, Mařenka tells her lover Jeník that she is to be married off against her will to the son of a farmer named Mícha, to whom her own father, Krusina, owes money. She knows little of Jeník’s past and he explains that he left home when his mother died and a new stepmother drove him out. They promise to remain faithful to one another. Kecal, the marriage-broker, gives Krušina and his wife Ludmila a glowing description of the intended bridegroom. Krušina wonders which of Mícha’s two sons is being offered and is assured that this is the respectable younger son, not the elder scoundrel. Mařenka breaks the news that she already loves another. Kecal decides to get rid of Jeník.
Mařenka recognizes Vašek, stuttering and in his Sunday best, as her intended husband. She tells him that the ‘Mařenka’ he is to marry is a faithless shrew who would probably poison him. When he protests that he is only obeying his mother, she charms him into renouncing the match. He is now devoted to this unnamed girl. Kecal offers Jeník a rich bride if he will go away. Jeník bargains for an additional 300 gulden, finally agreeing on the condition that Mařenka will be allowed to marry no one except Mícha’s son and also that Krušina’s debt is written off. Krušina is angry when he hears how Jeník has sold his interest in Mařenka. She has had a lucky escape.
Varek is enthralled by the colour and excitement of the circus, and especially by the legs of Esmeralda the tightrope walker. Esmeralda and the circus master talk him into appearing as a principal attraction, a dancing bear. Kecal, Mícha and his wife Háta cannot understand when Vašek refuses the match. Mařenka cannot believe what Jeník has done, but would rather remain single than marry Vašek, who returns and sees the girl he would happily marry. Mařenka agrees to reconsider the matter alone. When Jeník appears she tells him to go away. She tells her parents that she will marry Mícha’s son and is amazed when Jeník addresses Mícha as his father. There can be no objection to his marriage to Mařenka. There is uproar when it seems that a bear is loose, but it is only Vašek. Háta drags him off as the other parents give their blessing.
The Bartered Bride, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra; Zdenek Kosler, conductor; Supraphon 10 3511–2; Soloists: Gabriela Benacková (Mařenka), Marie Veselá (Ludmila), Marie Mrázová (Háta), Peter Dvorsky (Jeník), Miroslav Kopp (Varek), Alfred Hampel (Circus Master), Jindrich Jindrák (Krušina), Richard Novák (Kecal), Jaroslav Horácek (Mícha)
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