The Bartered Bride synopsis
Music by Bedřich Smetana
Libretto by Karel Sabina
First performed: 1870
Mařenka’s parents are enthusiastic about the suggestion of Kecal, the marriage broker, that their daughter should marry the son of the wealthy Mícha. Mařenka refuses because she is already in love with Jeník, whose parents no-one knows and who has no money. Mícha’s first son is presumed dead, and his second (by a second wife) is Vašek, who is much afraid of his mother. When Mařenka discovers that this is her chosen bridegroom, she describes herself in the most fearsome terms so that he will not marry her. Meanwhile Kecal tries to bribe Jeník to abandon his suit of Mařenka and Jeník accepts on condition that she only marries Mícha’s son. Everyone is shocked at his mercenary attitude but then all becomes clear: he is himself Mícha’s first son and has won both love and a dowry. Vašek, on the other hand, has found a vocation in a travelling circus.
Among the crowd celebrating the village saint’s day are a young couple in love, Mařenka and Jeník. She has just learnt that the man her parents have chosen for her husband is coming to visit them today.
Her Parents Krušina and Ludmilla, arrive with Kecal. It becomes clear that they, no more than their daughter, know the proposed bridegroom. So Kecal reminds Krušina that he publicaly declared, years ago, that his daughter would marry Tobias Mícha. Since the elder son, by Mícha’s first wife disappeared, it is the second son whom Kecal now proposes for Mařenka. She, however, refuses to consider marrying anyone other than Jeník and Krušina fails to persuade her to honour his old promise to Mícha.
Because Kecal hints that his candidate for all his merits, will need some assistance in courting Mařenka, Krušina goes off to talk over the matter with Mícha, while Kecal himself speaks to Jeník.
Kecal is trying his hardest to persuade Jeník to think seriously about his marriage prospects. Whiel they talk, Vašek, Mícha’s youngest son, encounters Mařenka. Without telling him who she is, she paints a terrifying picture of the bride his parents have in mind for him. She also describes another girl who is pining for him and he replies that if the girl is like the one he is talking with, he would love her. She makes him swear to never marry Mařenka.
Jeník and Kecal are still talking about his love for Mařenka, Kecal laughs at the idea of a happy marriage without money, and tries to tempt Jeník with a rich bribe. Jeník adamantly refuses to five up Mařenka, until Kecal threatens to drive him out of the village and he discovers that the husband proposed for Mařenka is a son of Toby Mícha. Then he aggress, making the clear conditions that he renounces Mařenka only for the suitor and that, so soon as the marriage is arranged, Mícha should be release Krušina from a long standing debt.
Alone, Jeník affirms his love for Mařenka but, when Kecal returns with the contract, he apparently yields to the son of Toby Mícha. Krušina and the villages are horrified that he could sell the girl he loves for money.
Vašek is still worried about the venomous woman to whom his parents want to marry him. A circus arrives, boasting Esmeralda, a tightrope walker, and a dancing bear. He is delighted by them; Esmeralda quickly spots him a solution to his problem: the man playing the bear is too drunk to perform. She promises to love him if he will dress up as the bear, and dance with her.
Mařenka, for her part, is in despair that Jeník has deserted her. Vašek is very confused when he discovers who Mařenka really is; she begs for a little time to think things over.
They leave her alone, and it is in this misery that Jeník finds her. She scornfully refuses to listen to his explanation. Even Kecal is amazed that Jeník offers to persuade her that marriage with Toby Mícha’s son will bring her happiness. The misunderstanding is only unravelled when Mícha recognises Jeník as his elder son. Kecal realises that he has been wholly outwitted since he now has to pay Jeník to marry Mařenka, and everyone is laughing at his discomfiture when Vašek runs in wearing a bear-skin. Now it is Háta’s turn to be furious. Mícha is reconciled with Jeník and blesses his marriage to the girl he truly loves.
Back to full list
Already a member?
Sign in now to access the members only area
Not a member?
Join now to receive priority booking, invitations to dress rehearsals and members-only events and much more.