Exhibition maps Bartered Bride’s foreign productions

Prodaná Nevěsta premiered at Prague’s Provisional Theatre on May 30, 1866

An exhibition mapping the famous foreign productions of The Bartered Bride, perhaps the most popular Czech opera, gets underway at the Bedřich Smetana Museum in Prague this week. It traces the opera’s journey from its first production abroad, in St Petersburg, across leading opera houses all over the world.

Prodaná Nevěsta premiered at Prague’s Provisional Theatre on May 30,  1866 | Photo: archive of National Museum
It was the legendary Czech opera singer Emmy Destin who helped to stage The Bartered Bride in New York. The opera was first performed in the Metropolitan opera on February 19, 1909, under the baton of Gustav Mahler.

The Bartered Bride premiered at Prague’s Provisional Theatre on May 30, 1866. The three-act comic opera, set in a country village, tells the story of true love that prevails over efforts of ambitious parents and a scheming marriage broker.

The first foreign production of the opera took place in St Peterburg in 1871 during Smetana’s life. Twenty-one years later, it was performed to great public acclaim in Vienna, followed by the production in New York.

The Bartered Bride returned to the Metropolitan Opera in 1941, this time in an English translation, starring another famous Czech opera singer, Jarmila Novotná.

With its charming story and beautiful music, The Bartered Bride won the hearts of listeners all around the world, reaching not only European and American stages, but also Asia, Africa and Australia.

Kateřina Viktorová is one of the authors of the exhibition:

“The biggest boom in productions of The Bartered Bride was in the 1890s, following its triumph in Vienna. In these years, it was performed in one European city after another, especially in the German-speaking region.

“Recent years have seen a renewed interest in the opera. In December 2018 it was performed in Munich and a new production of The Bartered Bride is now being prepared in Dresden. So it really is performed quite frequently.”

Emmy Destin as Mařenka,  photo: archive of National Theatre
A number of world-known opera stars appeared in the lead roles of The Bartered Bride over the years, including Fritz Wunderlich, Jonas Kaufman, Giuseppe di Stefano or Teresa Stratas. Apart from Gustav Mahler, it was also conducted by James Levine or Jiří Bělohlávek.

The exhibition at Prague’s Bedřich Smetana Museum, which is part of the National Museum, was prepared in cooperation with the Association of Chateau Liteň. Kateřina Viktorová outlines some of the items that will be on display:

“The exhibition presents photos, theatre posters, and various memorabilia. One of the most significant items is the portrait of the famous Vienna opera singer Lili Lejo, who starred in the role of Mařenka in 1893 or the correspondence between the famous baritone singer Victor Maurel and princess Paulina Metternich.”

The exhibition dedicated to the foreign productions of The Bartered Bride will run at the Bedřich Smetana Museum until November 2. It will be accompanied by a collection of photos featuring the Czech opera star Jarmila Novotná.