Opera North Blog

The Bartered Bride: Five fascinating facts


1. The spoken dialogue debate

The Bartered Bride was originally performed in 1866 as a series of musical numbers separated by spoken dialogue. By 1870, the piece had undergone numerous revisions with Smetana replacing all dialogue with traditional recitative. However, in order to give the characters an enhanced credibility and depth, our director Daniel Slater has decided to return to the spoken dialogue, writing his own as the original no longer exists…

2. A flavour of Bohemia 

Each act contains one dance section. Act I concludes with a festive Polka danced by the villagers, and Act II contains the famous Furiant, a rapid and fiery authentic Czech dance. Act III features the Skočná, which accompanies the circus performers and their breath-taking acrobatics…

3. A disappointing premiere... 

Like many great musical works that are now well established and enduringly popular, Smetana’s opera didn’t go down well at first. The premiere, held on 30th May 1866, was poorly attended, as it not only clashed with a public holiday, but the threat of imminent war between Prussia and Austria seriously dampened public enthusiasm for a light, romantic comedy. In the end, the theatre director was forced to pay Smetana's fee from his own pocket!

4. Influence on the Czech language today 

The name of the character Kecal has been adopted widely into the Czech language as the verb kecat which means to boast, exaggerate or talk rubbish. The most common usage being ‘nekecej’ which translates as ‘don't talk rubbish’! Strangely enough, Smetana himself didn't learn his own native language, Czech, until his late thirties as his first language growing up had been German. 

5. A showstopping (or starting) overture... 

The vibrant overture to The Bartered Bride is a hugely popular piece in its own right, and is frequently performed in concert programmes. It is also featured in the 1999 film Man on the Moon about the life of Andy Kaufman, starring Jim Carrey.

To find out more and purchase tickets for The Bartered Bride, please visit the webpage

Images above:
Iain Paton as Vašek and Giselle Allen as Mařenka in The Bartered Bride, 2004 
Circus performers of The Bartered Bride, 1998 
Portrait of Bedřich Smetena 
Jeremy White as Kecal (centre) with Glenville Hargreaves as Krušina and Carol Wilson as Ludmilla in The Bartered Bride, 2004. 

Video above:
The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra play the overture to The Bartered Bride conducted by Mariss Jansons. 

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