A refreshingly unusual Czech opera sung in English, The Bartered Bride tells the comic story of two small-town lovers whose families seek to marry them off to opposing partners. But don´t be fooled – this isn’t your classic, tried and tested romcom.
With some light slapstick, Opera North’s production of Bedřich Smetana´s 1866 opera is an extravaganza for the viewer: if you aren´t convinced by clumsy and endearing Vašek (Nicholas Watts), a stuttering city boy unlucky in love, then sparkling puppet Esmerelda (Jennifer France) is bound to capture your attention with a splash of quirky and colourful ballet. The stars of the show are leading lady Mařenka (Kate Valentine) whose strong, sweet voice fills the Grand Theatre with heartfelt passion; and Kecal, the village mayor (James Creswell), who commands an immediate rapport with the audience with a stern but hilarious character and monstrous bottom bass notes.
It’s not just a family affair: adults of the audience are invited to contemplate the Czech mentality of the time as satirical Circus Master Jíři (Peter Bodenham) exposes an anti-Russian prejudice, humorously claiming that his oddball travelling circus have “the wit of Stalin”. The opera’s striking Czech national colour is also a total treat for classical music junkies.
In light of a slightly underwhelming finale and far from perfect attempts at Czech accents from the cast, The Bartered Bride is still an eminently recommendable show; this persuasive performance truly makes one feel like part of the story.
Family and first-time opera goers friendly, this is the light, easy listening one to take your unwilling other half to and convince them that opera is actually pretty entertaining. Opera North shine once again with this charming, accessible comedy – to quote the casts delightful Russian bear, “The magic is still there!”