Work: Bartered Bride Overture
About This Work
Unlike Rossini, who would often wait until the very last minute to write an overture for one of his operas, or even himself for his other operas, Bedrich Smetana actually wrote the overture for his opera The Bartered Bride before he wrote anything
else for it. While the libretto was still being worked out, Smetana composed the overture in piano score during autumn 1863, two and a half years before the premiere of the first version of the opera. He was excited about his second work in the genre, one that would depict rustic Czech life rather than aristocratic life, that would represent Czech music rather than copy German styles, and that would be light and comic rather than Wagnerian. The final orchestration does succeed in those respects. It also reflects the excitement he felt, opening with brief fanfare, then with the strings building up to the main theme, a peasant dance-like melody. This theme is developed somewhat fugally and is followed by a brief oboe melody. Another idea appears in the strings, before the return of the first theme, which is again elaborated and is also the basis of the coda. All of the themes were used in the finale of the opera's second act. Along with Dvorák's music, these themes contribute a great deal to the character of Czech Romantic music, using peasant dance and song idioms for new melodies. The fresh and earthy Overture to the Bartered Bride is perhaps Smetana's second-most famous work, behind only The Moldau.
-- Patsy Morita
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