Arranged Marriage Goes Awry but Love Triumphs in ‘The Bartered Bride’

March 6, 2012

More Information:
For Media Only: Helene Snihur (585-274-1057, hsnihur@esm.rochester.edu)

“True love prevails” is a universal story, whether the lovers live in a Czechoslovakian village or on the plains of Iowa. In Eastman Opera Theatre’s upcoming production of The Bartered Bride, a 1930s Midwestern county fair stands in for a 19th century church festival in central Europe, a scheming attorney replaces a scheming marriage broker, and still the plot, happy ending, and music  transcend time and space.

“The creation of a distinctly Czech style of musical story-telling was at the heart of composer Bedrich Smetana’s decision to set this somewhat chaotic, comic love story,” said Michael McConnell, assistant professor of opera at the Eastman School of Music and director for the Eastman Opera Theatre production.  “While thoroughly deserving of its place as the Czech national opera, The Bartered Bride speaks to a wider humanity than can be claimed by a single, rural village celebrating a festival weekend in traditional song and dance.  Its particular illustration of the power of true love to overcome parental machinations, social pressure, and the power of the almighty dollar may be native to an emerging, middle European people of the late 19th century, but the boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-marries-girl story that it tells thrives in just about any soil during any historical period in which it might get planted.  The American Midwest as depicted by ‘American Gothic’ painter Grant Wood gives it a particularly favorable environment in which to flourish.”

The opera storyline revolves around Marenka, a young girl in love with Jenik but being pushed to marry Vasek, the awkward son of wealthy landowners.  Marenka schemes to divert Vasek’s attention, the marriage broker schemes to get Jenik out of the picture, and Jenik, it seems, is willing to forsake his love for a nice price.  Along the way, rustic dance numbers, a raucous drinking song, and the appearance of a traveling circus/Wild West show add to the lively pace of the work.

The Bartered Bride did not enjoy immediate success following its 1866 premiere in Prague. Smetana restructured and revised his comic opera three times before it finally gained the momentum to ensure universal popularity for its charming story and colorful score.  A staple of the repertoire in most international opera houses, its overture and some of the dance music are recognizable to audiences as popular concert pieces.

Eastman Opera Theatre is presenting The Bartered Bride in English at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 29, Friday, March 30, and Saturday, March 31, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, April 1, in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre

The production features costuming and set design that echo the work of American painter Grant Wood, famous for his depictions of the rural American Midwest, particularly “American Gothic.” Two alternating casts of Eastman voice students will be accompanied by Eastman student musicians conducted by Benton Hess, Distinguished Professor of Voice and music director of the Eastman Opera Theatre. Pre-performance lectures will be given by Russell Miller, associate professor of vocal repertoire and coaching at Eastman, one hour before the start of the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday performances in Room 120 in the Eastman School’s Main Hall.

Tickets are $35 Box Seats (Reserved); General Admission $25 General Public (discounts with UR ID); $12 full-time students with ID (max 2 per ID; any full-time students); available at the Eastman Theatre Box Office in the Eastman East Wing, 433 East Main St.; by phone (585) 454-2100; or online at esm.rochester.edu/concerts.

# # #

Thursday, March 29
Eastman Opera Theatre: Smetana’s The Bartered Bride.  Michael McConnell, director; Benton Hess, conductor.
7:30 p.m.
Kodak Hall, 60 Gibbs St.
Tickets: $35 Box Seats (Reserved); General Admission $25 General Public (discounts with UR ID); $12 full-time students with ID (max 2 per ID; any full-time students); available at the Eastman Theatre Box Office in the Eastman East Wing, 433 East Main St.; by phone (585) 454-2100; or online at esm.rochester.edu/concerts.

Friday, March 30
Eastman Opera Theatre: Smetana’s The Bartered Bride Michael McConnell, director; Benton Hess, conductor.
7:30 p.m.
Kodak Hall, 60 Gibbs St.
Tickets: $35 Box Seats (Reserved); General Admission $25 General Public (discounts with UR ID); $12 full-time students with ID (max 2 per ID; any full-time students); available at the Eastman Theatre Box Office in the Eastman East Wing, 433 East Main St.; by phone (585) 454-2100; or online at esm.rochester.edu/concerts.
Pre-performance lecture at 6:30 p.m. in Room 120

Saturday, March 31
Eastman Opera Theatre: Smetana’s The Bartered BrideMichael McConnell, director; Benton Hess, conductor.
7:30 p.m.
Kodak Hall, 60 Gibbs St.
Tickets: $35 Box Seats (Reserved); General Admission $25 General Public (discounts with UR ID); $12 full-time students with ID (max 2 per ID; any full-time students); available at the Eastman Theatre Box Office in the Eastman East Wing, 433 East Main St.; by phone (585) 454-2100; or online at esm.rochester.edu/concerts.
Pre-performance lecture at 6:30 p.m. in Room 120

Sunday, April 1
Eastman Opera Theatre: Smetana’s The Bartered Bride Michael McConnell, director; Benton Hess, conductor.
2 p.m.
Kodak Hall, 60 Gibbs St.
Tickets: $35 Box Seats (Reserved); General Admission $25 General Public (discounts with UR ID); $12 full-time students with ID (max 2 per ID; any full-time students); available at the Eastman Theatre Box Office in the Eastman East Wing, 433 East Main St.; by phone (585) 454-2100; or online at esm.rochester.edu/concerts.
Pre-performance lecture at 1 p.m. in Room 120