University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Smetana: The Bartered Bride

08/11/2013 1:00 pm
08/11/2013 4:30 pm


Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

We revisit Old Bohemia this Sunday. Although Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride (1866/70) has been rightly termed a folk opera, it does not quote a single authentic Czech folk melody. To be sure, it does draw upon the Bohemian national musical idiom in a most effective way.

As with Jaromir Weinberger's Schwanda The Bagpiper (Svanda Dudak), the libretto for Smetana's Prodana Nevesta was translated from Czech into German and renamed Die Verkaufte Braut, in which language it became internationally popular. The German language version is thoroughly appropriate because in the past many German-speaking people lived in Bohemia. The Bartered Bride succeeded outside its native land because the prevailing element of romantic comedy is universal and not bound down to notions of Czech nationalism.

Three times before you've heard Smetana's masterwork in German. Two of those three broadcasts featured the classic 1963 EMI recording starring the incomparable German tenor Fritz Wunderlich, with Rudolf Kempe conducting the Bamberg Symphony.

Today you get it in the original Czech. BBC Radio Three produced it and recorded it in 2011 at the Barbican Centre in London. An entire cast of native Czech-speaking singers was brought over from the Czech Republic. The distinguished Czech conductor Jiri Belohlavek led the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the chorus of the BBC Singers. The French Harmonia Mundi labeled the opera La Fiancée vendue when it was released on two compact discs in 2012.