[Met Performance] CID:113020

The Bartered Bride
Metropolitan Opera House, Sat, February 4, 1933 Matinee Broadcast

In German

Translation by Max Kalbeck
The Bartered Bride received three performances this season.
The opera was billed as Die Verkaufte Braut (The Bartered Bride).

Review 1:

Review of A. Walter Kramer in Musical America


Smetana's Comic Opera of Bohemian Village Life Returns to Repertoire After Absence of Five Years - Elisabeth Rethberg Is Outstanding in Admirable Cast That Brings Other Changes from Last Previous Representations - Dances and Melodies of Folk Character Win Favor

Five years have passed since Bedrich Smetana's "The Bartered Bride" was last sung at the Metropolitan Opera House. On Saturday afternoon, Feb. 4, it was revived before an audience which had, to put it kindly, mixed feelings as to whether it was to its liking or not, if applause means anything. The Smetana comic opera (there are some who enjoy calling it a grand comic opera!) has always had an appeal for lovers of charming music, combined with a libretto replete with humorous touches. But it has not held the big public, as its disappearance now and again from the Metropolitan repertoire indicates.

There is no disputing the winning quality of some of its melodies, the beauty of several ensembles, notably the sextet, "Noch ein Weilchen, Marie," the brightness and aptness of much of the instrumentation, despite its lack of variety, and the real theatrical sense of the composer. Of all Smetana operas, this is the one that has gone out from Bohemia to foreign lands. But I cannot believe that it is today nearly as significant a work as some hold it to be. There is little music in it that is fundamental in inspiration, little that could have been written by no one else. The folk feeling, generally simulated rather than quoted, is alluring, but its importance should not be overestimated.

Given in German Version

As given at the Provisional Opera in Prague in September, 1870, it was called by its Bohemian title "Prodana Nevesta." The Metropolitan sings it in Max Kalbeck's German version, "Die verkaufte Braut." Mr. Bodanzky conducted it with a lot of verve and authority, and the chorus, which Mr. Setti trained with his customary magic, sang glowingly. To Mr. Niedecken-Gebhard and Mr. Agnini goes credit for the stage direction, to the former for the cleverly worked-out circus scene in Act III.

Of the principals Mme. Rethberg was the outstanding artist. She sang her music thrillingly. Hers is one of the great soprano voices of the day, and her delivery of the aria, "Wie Fremd and Todt ist Alles umber," was a triumph of operatic song. Messrs. Hofmann and Windheim were admirable, as was Mme. Manski, while Mme. Petrova, Miss Gleason and Messrs. Schützendorf, Tappolet, Gandolfi and Wolfe did what they had to do with credit. Mr. Laubenthal was miscast as Hans, a role which I consider unsuited to him.

The sextet "Noch ein Weilchen," a notable bit of writing in its innocent way, had a rocky time of it in its middle section, but was steered to safety by Mme. Rethberg, whose entrance toward the close (where what has hitherto been a quintet becomes a sextet), illumined the piece with the glory of her voice. Why the Lento of the final measures was disregarded and a ritardando substituted for it remains a mystery!

The Polka was well danced by Miss de le Porte, Mr. Bonfiglio and the ballet, the Furiant by the same dancers and Miss Schneider, both well arranged by Rosina Galli. The sets were in the Metropolitan's routine style, painted by Joseph Novak.

Comparisons with "Schwanda"

There was a lot of talk last season when Weinberger's "Schwanda, der Dudelsackpfeifer," was mounted, about its indebtedness to the Smetana opera. I failed then to find it, nor did I notice it when I listened again to "The Bartered Bride" at its revival the other day. Both operas sound a Czech folk note, both employ a similar milieu as background for their music. But I am willing to be accused of anathema when I state that I know nothing in the score of the Smetana work that compares for poignancy of expression with the Heimatslied that runs through "Schwanda." Smetana's score has the added authority which comes to an older work by a standard composer. Vitality and simplicity are indeed qualities that will always distinguish it, but the melodic investiture of "Schwanda" is quite as noteworthy a possession, when it is realized that it was born in an unmelodic era. And its vitality remains unquestioned. The Metropolitan's failure to score an outstanding success with "Schwanda" must not be laid at the door of Weinberger's score, but to its own inability to cast it adequately. The title role called not for a Wagnerian baritone, but for a light, lyric singer, who could act the part with his voice and his presence. The Metropolitan's "Schwanda" could do neither.

As I have said, the audience received "The Bartered Bride" with favor, but not with acclaim. Future performances will determine whether Mr. Gatti's revival was a wise step at a time when interest in opera has been subjected to so much questioning.

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