Smetana, Verkaufte Braut
The Volksoper has unveiled a new productionof Smetana’s Bartered Bride this year. It is a much simpler updated staging than what I saw in this house in 1987, but it worked. The entire action took place on a single set, which looked like the inside of a large barn painted white, with long benches and tables serving as props. Although this came across as odd at first, it ended up working in its simplicity.
Costumes were slightly updated to be what villagers might wear at the beginning of the twentieth century – the program notes explained that life really did not change much in rural Bohemia between the time Smetana wrote the opera in the 1860s and the First World War, so the exact time did not matter. Why the director picked the end of that period specifically, however, remains unclear from the notes. Mostly this worked, except at the end when the villagers all showed up in black and white outfits, and Marie got to wear a turquoise weddingdress.
The two leads, Ursula Pfitzner as Marie and Mehrzad Montazeri as Hans, matched up nicely, with expressive singing and clear diction. Martin Winkler as Kecal, the marriage broker, also cut a fine and devious (or dubious) figure. A very young conductor, Gerrit Prießnitz, kept the orchestra moving at a lively pace, making for delightful folk-inspired music and dance.