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Key details

Duration
When In the Evening
Where? National Theatre

Main description

In his first comedy, based on Karel Sabina’s libretto, Smetana took on the task of portraying the soul of the Czech nation, in a way in which the comedic style was authentic and not just a parody of life. However, the world-renowned opera had to undergo several revisions before the meticulous composer came up with the final version, in 1870. The current production is directed by Magdalena Švecová at the National Theatre.

The opera tells the story of a village feast and the famous folk song “Let us Rejoice”. At the event, Mařenka and Jeník pledge their eternal love for each other, but fate has other plans. Mařenka’s debt-stricken father pawned her to the son of his creditor, and so Mařenka would be married to a character called Vašek, whom she did not even know. The comic figure of matchmaker Kecal appears on the scene to assure the family of Vašek’s good qualities and considerable wealth. All that it is needed is for Jeník to marry someone else. And so, while Kecal convinces Jeník, who suddenly has a plan to get his Mařenka and some gold into the bargain, distracted Vašek meets an unfamiliar girl, who talks him out of a wedding with Mařenka. Vašek does not know that the stranger is really Mařenka.

The opera has a traditional spirit, underlined by the beautiful period costumes and the idyllic, fairy-tale qualities of the set. The circus of the third act is filled with exoticism and playfulness, when dance and other movement (including almost acrobatic pieces) come on the scene. The music is light, free of tragic pathos, and makes you feel elated or leaves an impression without a sense of melancholy. The dynamism is based here on a gentle relationship between mild tension and relief. The strong point of the performance is, of course, the humour that Švecová uses with intelligence and feeling to create a result faithful to the composer’s intention. The Bartered Bride is one of the gems of world opera because the jokes and the simplicity of village life of the time do not mar its artistic experience – quite the opposite.

The opera has three acts and is performed in the original Czech, with English and Czech subtitles. The singers are accompanied by the Choir and Orchestra of the National Theatre.

Let’s meet there:

National Theatre Národní 223/2 Praha 1 – Nové Město 110 00

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