THE BARTERED BRIDE by Bedrich Smetana

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Here's a classic for you -- a telecast of Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride, a spirited comedy performed at the Metropolitan Opera in 1978. Set in a country village in the mid-19th century, the opera tells the story of how true love prevails over the combined efforts of ambitious parents and a scheming marriage broker.

The work created by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana makes use of many traditional bohemian dance forms such as the polka and the furiant (described as "a rapid and fiery A furiant is a rapid and fiery dance in alternating 2/4 and 3/4 time). This opera, Smetana's second, was part of his quest to create a truly Czech operatic genre. He succeeded and for many years this was the only Czech opera in the general repertory.

The story involves a peasant, his wife and their daughter, Marenka (the soprano lead). There's a landowner with a wife and son, Vasek, plus a stranger named Jenik (a tenor, of course). Marenka and Jenik are passionately in love but Marenka's parents want her to marry someone she has never met who turns out to be the younger son of the landowner.

There's much dancing and singing including a rousing drinking song ("To beer!") in which the relative merits of love and money vs beer are debated. A contract is drawn up whereby Jenik agrees to renounce Marenka for money but with the condition that no one but the landowner's son will be allowed to wed Marenka. No one knows at this point that Jenik is also the landowner's son by a previous marriage.

A travelling circus comes to town with a Spanish dancer, a sword swallower and a dancing bear who collapses after being given too much beer. A replacement is needed and the glamorous Spanish dancer persuades Vasek to play his part. Vasek, excited by the glamor of the circus (and the dancer) no longer wants to marry Marenka. She no longer wants to marry Jenik because of his willilngness to barter her away. There is confusion and alarm when it appears a bear has escaped from the circus and is heading for the village. The bear is revealed to be Vasek who is apparently not ready for marriage. Jenik is revealed to be the landowner's son and true love triumphs. All ends in a celebratory chorus.

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