Review by Peter Townsend of Words and Music
Highly Professional Singers
I heard the performance of The Bartered Bride on the final evening and, as with the rest of the audience, was thoroughly entertained.
The plot of the opera is quite simplistic, with a nice happy ending where the lovers are united and earlier family differences are forgiven. Smetana’s music is strongly dependent on the quality of the musicians as the orchestral input is very large. The orchestra of Surrey Opera were lively, musical and well balanced. Right from their long opening overture they set a good atmosphere for the evening, so congratulations to their conductor, Jonathan Butcher.
Smetana’s music for the singers is a so lively and carries along the story line well, but he does not really write tunes that are instantly memorable and fit into the opera hit list. Nevertheless, his writing for the singers is musically enjoyable. He succeeds particularly well with a couple of duets and in the quintets and sextets. The English text was in a new and clear translation. This was available in surtitles but the diction of the singing was good and so surtitles were rarely essential, which is a considerable compliment to the singers.
Surrey Opera have some high quality professional singers and the lead roles, played by Rebecca Hodgetts and Stephen Brown as the young lovers, were highly applauded by the audience. I particularly liked Tim Baldwin as the marriage broker (Kecal) as he managed to introduce a nice balance of sound tone and menace into his part.
All the rest of the soloists gave good support to the plot. There was a large chorus and, except for a few odd patches, they added the necessary musical crowd scenes and they were obviously enjoying themselves.
Overall I thought this was very entertaining production.
Review by Frank Ruhrmund of The Cornishman
This bride deserved better weather
NOT ONLY a case of singing in the rain but also of struggling against a strong wind and swirling sea fog, Surrey Opera is to be praised for facing up so splendidly to Monday’s awful weather which greeted its opening performance of Czech composer Bedrich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride.
Directed by James Hurley with musical direction by Jonathan Butcher and performed on an intriguing timbered set designed by Madeleine Millar, one of which the late Trader Gray would have been proud, the opera tells of the lives and loves of three people in a 19th century Bohemian village — Mařenka, Jeník and Vašek — and the problems that ensue when the girl in this eternal triangle becomes the subject of a financial deal.
For good measure it also involves a lot of drinking, a village population which is more often drunk than sober, plus a visiting circus which has everything from a bearded lady to a dancing bear, not to mention enough melodic charm to keep even the most saturated of its audience happy. Then, too, there is the singing and acting all of which is of a high standard.
The leads are shared and on its opening night I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing Joanna Weeks as Mařenka, the eponymous heroine, and Greg Tassell as her lover Jeník, both of whom were on top form and gave winning performances.
They were handsomely supported by Tim Baldwin as the scheming marriage broker Kecal, Daniel Roddick and Rhonda Browne as Mařenka’s parents, Edwin Hawkes (Mícha), Angela Fuller (Háta), Rebecca Moon (Esmeralda) and Rhys Bowden who, as the bewildered, bothered and bewitched prospective bridegroom Vašek, stole every scene he was in.
Praise, too, for Richard Jeffery who, as well as looking every inch a Ringmaster, found time to acknowledge those who, like the cast, had braved the weather and stayed to see them perform.
A production which deserves better weather and a big bravo, it is dedicated to the memory of Anthea Hall, Surrey Opera’s former Administrator, who would surely have been proud.