Theatre at UBC/ The Opera Ensemble

The Bartered Bride

By Bedrich Smetana
Libretto by Karel Sabina
Sung in Czech with English surtitles

Director: Josef Novak Conductor: Norbert Baxa Musical Director: Richard Epp Set design: Alessia Carpoca Lighting design: Jeremy Baxter Costume design : Opera House Opava, Dana Svobodova Czech coach and surtitles : Milena Janda Stage Manager: Alishia Harris

Venue: The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts Dates: 6-9 March 2003

Reviewer: Jane Penistan

What an experience for the students of UBC Opera School to take part in a Czech opera directed and conducted by distinguished Czech musicians! This was also a rare experience for the audience. Smetana is one of the earlier composers of what is generally called folk opera and The Bartered Bride, more correctly translated as "The Sold Bride," is his first.

The story is of a girl forced to marry a wealthy man's son in payment for a family debt. However, the bride has other ideas, and refuses to comply with her father's bargain, until it is revealed that the prospective bridegroom is the man with whom she is in love and pledged to. So all ends happily even though the intended bridegroom sells his beloved.

This amusing and felicitous work was performed in an ingenious mittel-Europa picture book setting with colourful costumes matching the music.

The orchestra performed well under the baton of Norbert Baxa, bringing his national music to Vancouver and the singing of the chorus had a lightheartedness in keeping with the theme of the tale. Outstanding among the cast on the first night, was Neema Bickersteth as Marenka. Her beautiful voice and musicianship were thrilling. As Jenik, John Arsenault sang somewhat tentatively at first, but redeemed himself admirably as the evening proceeded. Pierre Hungr made the most of his role as the marriage broker, Kecal. Alex Good, as Vasek, gave a humourous and lively performance as the somewhat bewildered and totally unsuitable prospective bridegroom. His enchantment with the attractive circus company was shared with the equally appreciative audience.

This was a delightful evening of well performed opera, full of youthful charm. The future of opera looks very promising.

2003, Jane Penistan