The Bartered Bride Opera Synopsis

A Comic Opera in 3 Acts

A couple exchange loving looks in a scene from Smetana's 'The Bartered Bride' presented by the Sadler's Wells Opera Company at Sadler's Wells, London. Cast included Peter Glossop, Victoria Elliott, and David Ward. April 3, 1956.
A couple exchange loving looks in a scene from Smetana's 'The Bartered Bride' presented by the Sadler's Wells Opera Company at Sadler's Wells, London. Cast included Peter Glossop, Victoria Elliott, and David Ward. April 3, 1956. Denis De Marney/Getty Images

Composer:

Bedřich Smetana

Librettist:

Karel Sabina

Premiere:

May 30, 1866 - Provisional Theatre - Prague, 

Setting:

The Bartered Bride takes place in a small Bohemian village

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The Bartered Bride Synopsis

Act 1
Marenka and Jenik celebrate and partake in the festivities of the church fair, but Marenka seems to be upset.

She tells Jenik that she is upset with her parents, because they are pushing her into marrying someone she has never met. Jenik consoles her, and despite knowing each other's history, they reveal their love for one another.

After Marenka and Jenik leave, Marenka's parents arrive with the marriage broker, Kecal.  Kecal states that he has found Marenka a suitable groom named Vasek.  Vasek is the younger son of a wealthy landowner (Tobias Micha).  Vasek, he explains, is a great, well-manored young man, but his older brother  is pretty much a loser.  While Kecal continues to discuss Vasek's fine qualities, Marenka arrives without Jenik and announces that she has already found love.  Kecal demands her to end her relationship with Jenik, but she refuses. This causes a fight between her, her parents, and Vasek.  Sensing that the argument isn't going to be resolved, Kecal takes it upon himself to convince Jenik to move on and forget about Marenka.

Act 2
Kecal finds Jenik drinking beer with other men from the village, so he sits down in a chair beside and quickly dives into a conversation with Jenik about love and money and the merits and qualities of each.  As they discuss their ideas and feelings, a group of women arrive and dance with the men.

Meanwhile, Vasek nervously ponders his upcoming marriage to Marenka, whom he has never met. Moments later, Marenka arrives and quickly realizes that Vasek is her appointed husband, however, she does not reveal her true identity to him. Instead, she poses as scorned friend or foe of Marenka, and strikes up a conversation with him about the terrible qualities Marenka possesses. She easily convinces Vasek that Marenka is a deceitful woman, and even goes so far as to manipulating him into falling in love with this fake persona. Within minutes of charming him, Vasek denounces Marenka.

Back in the tarvern, Kecal and Jenik continue to debate about love and money. Finally, their conversation nears its end when Kecal offers Jenik 100 florins to give up Marenka. Jenik protests that 100 florins isn't enough, so Kecal ups his offer to 300 instead. Jenik briefly ponders the offer and finally accepts on one condition - Marenka can only marry Tobias Micha's son. Kecal agrees to the offer without hesitation and leaves to draw up the contract. Jenik, alone, contemplates his actions and what people will think of him.

Kecal returns with a large group of villagers and proclaims the terms of Jenik's contract.

 At first, no one can believe that Jenik would do such a thing, but when they find out he received 300 florins to give up his love, they become upset and disappointed in him. They immediately cut him out of their lives and label him as a wretch.d off. The Act ends with Jenik being denounced by Krušina and the rest of the assembly as a rascal.

Act 3
Vasek hears what happened between Jenik and Marenka and is confused about the effects it will have him.  As he wonders what'll happen next, a traveling circus sweeps past him as they make their way into town. After the ringmaster announces the stars of the show, they perform a dance for all the villagers who have gathered around them. Vasek forgets his problems as he watches Esmeralda, the Spanish dancer. It's clear he is captivated by her beauty, and he shyly approaches her to ask her on a date.

 Before he can voice his proposition, the Indian sword swallower rushes in panically shouting that the dancing bear drunkenly collapsed ands cannot perform. As members of the circus act frantically try to replace the bear, it is Vasek who is persuaded to do it, thanks to Esmeralda's coercion.

After the circus and its ensemble cast leave to prepare for their show, Vasek's mother and father arrive with Kecal to speak with Vasek. He tells them he has learned about Marenka's true nature and that he no longer wants to marry her. They are shocked to find out about his sudden change of heart. Before they can even question him, Vasek runs away. Marenka and her parents arrive shortly thereafter, having just heard about the deal Jenik made with Kecal. They all join in to discuss the oddness and unbelievable turn of events. To make matters even more confusing, Vasek returns and finds the strange girl he fell for speaking with his parents. He announces that he'll marry her instead of Marenka. Both families quickly tell Marenka to make up her mind and leave her alone to make her decision. 

Angrily pacing back and forth, Marenka is furious over Jenik's betrayal. When he enters, she immediately vents her frustrations and tells him that she'll marry Vasek instead. Jenik pleads and pleads with her, but when Kecal arrives, Kecal sends him away. When Marenka's and Vasek's parents return (along with a large group of villagers), they want to know who Marenka has decided to marry. After she announces that she'll marry Vasek, Jenik returns and approaches Tobias Micha, calling him father.

As it turns out, Jenik is Tobias Micha's oldest son, the loser that was actually pushed out of the house by his stepmother, Hata. Because he is the oldest son of Tobias Micha, the terms of his contract with Kecal still hold true. Marenka finally understands Jenik's actions and quickly forgives him. Suddenly, villagers in the distance shout and scream. It's announced that a bear from the circus has escaped and it's making its way toward the village. When the bear rushes in, frightening everyone along the way, it stops and slowly takes off its mask, revealing a red-faced Vasek. His parents are less than enthused and realize that he isn't quite ready for marriage after all. When he is escorted back to the circus, Jenik's father walks over to the young couple and blesses their marriage, and everyone joins in celebrating them.