26 Mar 2006

SMETANA: Die verkaufte Braut

Die verkaufte Braut (The Bartered Bride; Prodaná nevěsta)

Comic opera in three acts.

Music composed by Bedřich Smetana. Libretto by Karel Sabina

First Performance: 30 May 1866 at the Provisional Theatre, Prague (definitive version 25 September 1870 at same)

Principal Characters:

Krušina, a farmer Baritone
Ludmila, his wife Soprano
Mařenka their daughter Soprano
Mícha, a wealthy landowner Bass
Háta, his wife Mezzo-Soprano
Vašek, their son Tenor
Jeník, Mícha’s son from his first marriage Tenor
Kecal, a village marriage-broker Bass
Circus Master Tenor
Esmeralda, circus artist Soprano
Indian circus artist Bass

Time and Place: A small village during Spring Festival.


Act I

In a Bohemian village during Spring Festival, the beautiful Marenka is sad. She loves Jenik; but her parents have promised her to another boy, Vašek, the son of the rich landowner Mícha. The marriage broker, Kecal, arrives to finalize the contract. Krušina, Marenka's father, remarks that he has always heard that Mícha has two sons, but has never met either one. He asks Kecal to tell him about both sons, but Kecal insists that Vašek is just the man for Marenka and that no one knows what has happened to Mícha 's eldest son. Marenka joins them and tells her parents that she already has a sweetheart she has promised to wed. As the square fills with villagers celebrating the festival with their traditional dances, Kecal plots to find out who Marenka's sweetheart is and to offer him money to leave her.

Act II

During festivities near a country inn, Vašek finally appears. He has just learned that parents are about to marry him off. Marenka draws near him. Not knowing that she is his possible bride, Marenka relates to him that the girl is a horrid person and convinces him to give up her. Meanwhile, Kecal approaches Jenik. They negotiate a contract that provides that Jenik will relinquish his claim to the young girl for three hundred florins but, per Jenik’s stipulation, only to the “child of Tobiaš Mícha.” The villagers are utterly disgusted by Jenik’s actions.


A company of acrobats arrive at the village square to give a show. Vašek is approached by the dancer, Esmeralda, who convinces him to take the place of an absent dancer and perform the part of the dancing bear. Inspired by this adventure, Vašek refuses the hand of Marenka. Marenka, in the meantime, learns that she has been sold. She is so offended and humiliated, that she declares to Jenik that she is ready to marry the rich child of Mícha. When the marriage contract is concluded, Jenik reveals himself. He is the stepbrother of Vašek, the offspring of Mícha’s first marriage. He had been cast out of house by his stepmother, Hata, when he was child. He has thus sold Marenka to himself. The young girl understands the joke and renews her love for Jenik. Jenik’s father is happy to see his child once again. Only the mother of Vašek resists the marriage. But when she sees Vašek get out of a bearskin to the derision by all those present, she concedes that Vašek’s union with Marenka is impossible. Marenka and Jenik are then married and all are in celebration.

Click here for the complete libretto (German).