[Met Performance] CID:92170
New production
The Bartered Bride {26} Metropolitan Opera House: 01/28/1926.

(Review)


Metropolitan Opera House
January 28, 1926
In German
New production


THE BARTERED BRIDE {26}
Smetana-Sabina

Marenka.................Maria Müller
Jeník...................Rudolf Laubenthal
Vasek...................George Meader
Kecal...................Michael Bohnen
Ludmila.................Marion Telva
Krusina.................Carl Schlegel
Háta....................Phradie Wells
Tobias..................Gustav Schützendorf
Circus Barker...........Max Bloch
Esmeralda...............Louise Hunter
Red Indian..............Arnold Gabor
Dance...................Florence Rudolph
Dance...................Giuseppe Bonfiglio
Dance...................Rita De Leporte

Conductor...............Artur Bodanzky

Director................Wilhelm von Wymetal
Set designer............Joseph Novak
Choreographer...........August Berger
Choreographer...........Ottokar Bartik
Translation by Kalbeck

[The opera was billed as Die Verkaufte Braut (The Bartered Bride).
The Overture was played before Act II.]

The Bartered Bride received five performances this season.

Review of Oscar Thompson in Musical America

'Bartered Bride' Revival Brings Back Gay Melodies

Smetana's Delightful Music Heard at Metropolitan for First Time in 14 Years - Cast Includes Maria Muller, Marion Telva, Louise Hunter, Laubenthal, Bohnen and Meader, with Bodanzky in Conductor's Chair

When Bedrich Smetana's "Bartered Bride" first flashed its merry Mozartean melodies and its madcap Bohemian dances at the Metropolitan on Feb. 19, 1909, MUSICAL AMERICA'S reviewer remarked that here was an opera that should never vanish from the repertoire. But it did. Six performances the first season and about the same number, all told, in three succeeding years, completed its first sojourn in New York. Beloved of connoisseurs, it still failed to hold its own with perennial works of lesser merit and charm. Was this because our American patrons of opera prefer the tragic to the comic and the grandiose to the simple? Or because, outside of Wagner, there are but two types of melody that can maintain themselves with our audiences - the one Italian, the other French, both highly standardized and often frankly banal.

Opportunity has come for further consideration of these questions with the joyous revival of the Smetana opera last Thursday night at the Metropolitan. Those who adored it when it was last given, went about bestowing blessings on Giulio Gatti-Casazza and all of his confederates. Others, to whom it was a new experience, gave every sign of taking the music warmly to their bosoms. Here was an epicure's delight, a score that bubbled over with tunes that were riant and dancing in their lilt, yet wrought with a most admirable workmanship. There were pathetic touches and moments of wistful melancholy. But there were many more of ruddy fun, and the effect of the whole was that of sunshine and fresh breezes, summed up not only in the delicious overture but in the characteristic, if commonplace, words of the [first] chorus of the first act:

"See the buds burst on the bush,
Hear the blithe birds sing,
Joy and splendor everywhere,
O, the lovely spring !"

Will "The Bartered Bride" as a revival survive longer than it did when a novelty? Or, after a few seasons, will it become again a delectable memory, with only the sunbright overture retaining its indisputable place on concert programs to give the music a small measure of currency? Every opera patron weary of the round of "Toscas," "Cheniers," "Aidas," "Fausts," "Rigolettos," "Tannhäusers" and "Fedoras" will hope that this time an exception will be found to the rule that only Wagner endures for our public among works that are sung in German, and that "The Barber of Seville" is the one comedy that can be mounted year after year with unflagging interest. Musically, "The Jewels of the Madonna" and "La Cena delle Beffe" are so inferior to this efflorescence of Czech lyricism as to cause any musician to blush over their presence in the same repertoire.

In reviving "The Bartered Bride," Gatti-Casazza entrusted it to Artur Bodanzky, the Austrian member of his staff of conductors. Gustav Mahler, who conducted in 1909, was a Bohemian. Mr. Gatti had the choice of two sopranos of Czech origin for the role of Marie, and chose the other one. Not Maria Jeritza, as had been predicted, but Maria Müller was selected for the role in which Emmy Destinn, also a Czech, kindled the affections seventeen years ago. He had also at hand Ottokar Bartik, the Czech ballet master who arranged the Bohemian dances at the earlier representation, but this phasis of the new version was divided between Mr. Bartik and August Berger. Wilhelm von Wymetal, who came to the Metropolitan from Vienna, had charge of the staging. The new settings were by Joseph Novak.

Besides Mme. Destinn, the 1909 cast included Carl Jorn as Hans, Adamo Didur as Kezal, and Albert Reiss as Wenzel. Changes of cast subsequently brought Otto Goritz to the part of Kezal and Herman Jadlowker as Hans. Only Didur of the singers of seventeen years ago is now a member of the company, and as he sang Kezal at last week's dress rehearsal (Bohnen being still distressed by the cold which has hampered his recent activities), it is to be presumed that he will resume his old rôle at some of the current representations.

Bohnen, with Meader a close second, was the bright light of Thursday's performance. His Kezal proved worthy of place beside his Caspar in "Der Freischütz," hitherto his most successful characterization. His fussy drollery and endless elaboration of detail were never tiresome. The extravagance with which he sometimes mars characterizations of more serious mien was here
admirably suited to the broad comedy of the part. His resonant voice retained vocal quality through all his jugglery of words in a pattering parlando. And when he had a melody to sing, as in the delicious duet between Kezal and Hans, in the second act, it was tuneful enough to have made a musical comedy audience tap its feet. In this Kezal, the new performance surpassed the old, though perhaps in no other detail did it reach quite the same high level. There was no need to compare Meader's Wenzel with that of Reiss, to admit its merits. As the stuttering youth whose heart went out to every pretty face, he presented a low comedy portrait of uncommon skill. Moreover, he, like Bohnen, sang his notes with melodic charm.

Laubenthal was a handsome Max, and Wenzel's sorry appearance was not necessary to make it clear why Marie, the object of the matrimonial barter, preferred him to his ridiculous half-brother. His singing varied between phrases of excellent quality and others in which tones were swallowed wholesale. Laubenthal's is a fine voice - a better one, perhaps, than has been generally realized. Its future, however, would seem to be in the heavier parts - as his Tristan has given plain indication - rather than the lyric roles he has heretofore essayed. Hans, like Max in "Freischütz," is scarcely a role for a heroic Wagnerian tenor.

Maria Müller's lovely voice was altogether delightful in the music of Marie. Such deficiencies as her characterization had were not vocal ones. One wishes most that she would overcome the tendency to mark her vocal measures by motions of her head, elbows, hands or knees. There is no more charming lyric organ in the opera house, as would be more generally apparent if her acting could acquire more of physical repose.

The goblins of musical comedy will snatch little Louise Hunter if she doesn't watch out. Such prettiness and dash, combined with such vocal quality, as she exhibited in the role of Esmeralda, the funambulist of the last act's traveling circus, would be irresistible in the Broadway "girl" shows, as indeed they were here. The "circus" was otherwise a good one, with Max Bloch making much of the strong man, Springer; and with Arnold Gabor and several unnamed dancers, including the child acrobat who ran off with the strongman's 300-pound weights, contributing to its lively and highly amusing ensemble. The lesser parts, as enumerated above, were in capable hands, and it can be chronicled that from first to last, Smetana's music was most agreeably sung.

For those who recall the earlier production, the ballet fell appreciably short of its predecessor. A specially assembled group of Bohemian residents of New York, young men and women, were trained for this feature of the 1909 performances and brought to it a strongly racial spirit. The dances Thursday, though well designed and executed, were entrusted to the regular corps, with young women in men's attire taking over the steps of the male partners. It was all very pretty, and doubtless for those who had not seen the other, was delightful. But it seemed somewhat conventional and lacking in vitality, when compared to the earlier dancing. The lack of vigorous masculinity was particularly felt in the Polka of the first act.

Much of the success of "The Bartered Bride" depends upon the orchestra. Though written as far back as the middle of the eighteen-sixties, it often employs the instruments symphonically, and it is quite possible for the listener to forget the singers and revel in the tints and the humors of the scoring. The clarinet, so prominent in Dvorak's later symphonies, is used to give the peculiar coloring that is immediately recognizable as Bohemian. Harmonically, the score is simple but rich. It has that warmth and glow that are characteristic of the best works of Dvorak and Goldmark.

Melodies are of a folk character and strongly racial, yet the form of their statement is often Rossinian, when not more directly suggesting Rossini's own model, the operas of Mozart. There is no escaping the charm of such tunes as that of the love music of Hans and Marie in the first act, which recurs in subsequent scenes; the dance-like duet between Marie and Wenzel in the second, the Hans-Kezal episode already referred to, or the prancing little lilt of Esmeralda, in the last. The solos of Marie and Hans, if in less characteristic vein, afford pleasant listening, and the sextet of the last act is a beautiful example of old-style part writing. The overture and the dance music are as altogether delightful as when they were first brought to American attention.

Mr. Bodanzky, following Mahler's precedent, wisely performed the overture between the first and second acts, where its fascinations would not be marred by late arrivals. If not played as euphoniously as it has been in the concert halls, it was a joy of crisp phrases and stinging rhythms. The first act had a certain heaviness, more Teutonic than Bohemian in suggestion: but thereafter the pace was a celeritous one. The naïve story of the opera and its peasant locale are its present weaknesses. The music so completely serves its purposes that the visual action is never wearisome, but it must be admitted that it contains nothing that can supply excitement for sophisticated thrill hunters.



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