Critical Reviews of the 1871 Production of the Bartered Bride in St. Petersburg
The article is based on research into St. Petersburg sources relating to the premiere and subsequent performances of Smetana’s The Bartered Bride at the Mariinsky Theatre in 1871. The opera scored a fairly resounding success with the audience. All the more surprising then were the largely negative assessment it received from music experts. Of those, Mavriky Yakovlevich Rappaport, César Antonovich Cui, Alexander Sergeyevich Famintsyn and Feofil Matveyevich Tolstoy criticized the opera for its generic lightness which they mostly paralelled with the stage output of Offenbach, apart from which they were unimpressed both by the libretto, and by the music which they considered to be lacking in national character. In its time, this unwelcoming attitude to the opera provoked stormy response in Prague.
The present article, originally written as a corollary to the publication of the second volume of the critical edition of Bedřich Smetana’s correspon dence, explores relevant source materials from a time distance of 150 years, taking into account other studies (M.K. Černý and A.A. Gozenpud), and supplementing previous findings by new information. It draws primarily on the complete texts of the individual reviews and their translations, with due attention to their exact dating. Apart from that, it likewise examines relevant theatre posters and Eduard Nápravník’s notebook containing records of all of the opera’s performances. The article also deals with the correspondence of the main protagonist of the St. Petersburg production, Josef Paleček, with Bedřich Smetana, and points to the differences between the aspects prioritized by the individual reviewers, and on the whole to the actual absence of Russian critics’ grasp on the genre of lyrical comedy. Finally, a novel element is provided by the inclusion of a review by Dmitry Arkadyevich Stolypin whose treatment in existing musicological studies was previously limited to scant references to its individual parts.
Key words: The Bartered Bride; St. Petersburg; nineteenth-century opera; Bedřich Smetana; Josef Paleček; Mavriky Yakovlevich Rappaport; César Antonovich Cui; Alexander Sergeyevich Famintsyn and Feofil Matveyevich Tolstoy; Dmitry Arkadyevich Stolypin
Translated by Ivan Vomáčka