Smetana, Bedrich: Prodaná nevesta (The Bartered Bride)
Act 2: Recitative and Aria, “Az uzríš…Jak morna verít” (Jeník)
Aria Talk •
Editor's Note: Aria Talk focuses not on the tried-and-true pieces you undoubtedly already know, but on somewhat off-the-beaten-track arias. The hope is that this music will prove a refreshing musical and interpretive change not only for you, the performer, but also for those hearing you in auditions.
Jeník is one of the more challenging roles in the Slavic tenor repertoire, requiring both floating lyricism and considerable strength. A truly full-bodied tenor voice can revel in this character’s music in a manner that few other Czech roles can match. If your vocal heft has developed beyond, say, Tamino or Nemorino, if you can manage Czech text and if you’re genuinely confident above the staff, check Jeník out!
Jeník and Marenka hope to marry, but the latter’s father objects, since his prospective son-in-law’s past remains a mystery. Krušina wants to marry his daughter off to Vašek, whom Marenka considers a fool. Vašek is the second son of Mícha, whose first son disappeared years before. Kecal, the marriage broker, has a wealthy girl in mind for Jeník; if he renounces Marenka, Kecal will also pay him a nice sum. He agrees, stipulating that Marenka must marry only Mícha’s son (of course, Jeník turns out to be Mícha’s firstborn, he we don’t know that yet). Jeník’s other condition: after the marriage takes place, Mícha’s debt to Krušina must be voided. Once alone, Jeník in his aria expresses amazement that anyone would believe he’d “sell” his beloved Marenka: “I wouldn’t give her up for thousands,” he says, “There’s no one like her in the world.”
You’ll need to navigate very carefully in the passaggio throughout the aria but the effort will be worth it for the pleasure of Smetana’s legato. Give this piece the necessary soulfulness and warmly rounded tone, while really sailing onto the sustained high A, and you’ll make a captivating effect.
Recording: complete performances with Peter Dvorský (Supraphon #3511), Vladimir Tomš (Naxos #8.110098-99), Fritz Wunderlich (in German, Angel #649002)
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