By Jason Mount
A show of brides, betrayal and bargains took the Robert L. Annis Playhouse stage with Czech opera, “The Bartered Bride,” at Westminster on April 8.
Stage directed by Professor of Theater Ivan Fuller and musically directed by Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera William Hobbs, members of the audience were buzzing with anticipation for the play to begin.
As the chamber orchestra played its overture, the crowd silenced themselves and directed its full attention to the stage.
As Act I started, attendees began to cheer for the masterful playing of the chamber orchestra. Then, the show truly started when ensemble performers entered from the back of the Playhouse and made their way to the stage. As the first lyrics left the performers’ mouths, the words appeared on a projector screen, peeking out from the ceiling to allow audience members who were not adept with operatic lyrics to follow along.
The first act introduced Jenik, played by graduate vocal performance major Evan Stenzel, and Marenka, played by graduate vocal performance major Avery Peterman.
Jenik and Marenka are a couple madly in love, despite the warnings from the people around them. The ensemble soon exits, and Marenka laments about her situation as a promised bride, and asks Jenik about his past, with powerful soprano notes.
The scene changed to graduate vocal performance major Alyce Daubenspeck’s character, a marriage broker named Kecal, speaking with Marenka’s parents about her being promised to Vasek, a son of Micha, played by graduate voice pedagogy and performance major Aaron Eaves. Daubenspeck conjured many laughs from the audience with her great comedic timing and hilarious tone. The first act then ends with Kecal leaving to dissuade Jenik from pursuing Marenka.
Once the second act opens, banter begins as Jenik sings of the strength of his love compared to the men of the ensemble’s love for beer and fun. Eventually, Jenik and Kecal meet, and a comedic exchange occurs. Kecal offers any amount of money and any bargain to make sure Jenik does not marry Marenka, earning laughs from the audience.
Vasek, played by senior music education major Aldo Aranzulla, is introduced to the audience in the next scene. His comedic character stutters in a nervous demeanor. Laughter erupted from the audience when Vasek prattles on about his nerve-wracking situation involving his arranged marriage.
The packed audience giggled, listening intently to Marenka’s attempt to dissuade Vasek from marrying her, by claiming another girl loves him, resulting in confusion from both parties.
By the end of Act II, audience members were enthralled with the story, especially when Jenik agrees with Kecal to leave Marenka alone for $300 and on the condition that she marries “a son of Micha.”
The final act opens with a circus rolling in from the back of the Playhouse to the stage, boasting its dancers, strongmen and acts of entertainment. The dancers of the circus used the stage to their advantage and moved swiftly from side to side before introducing a juggler. The entire circus act demanded many hollers and cheers from onlookers.
As all loose ends are tied up after the circus performance, the audience stayed immersed in the plot.
Vasek realizes he has been tricked, yet falls for Marenka anyway, while Marenka learns of Jenik’s betrayal.
During Marenka’s aria, each attending guest was entranced and not a single person stirred.
In a miraculous conclusion, Jenik reveals his master plan — he is also a son of Micha, and therefore can marry Marenka, leaving a happy ending for the characters in the story and the audience who witnessed it.
The audience gave a standing ovation during the opera’s bows, and attendees, previously spellbound by the talented cast and chamber pit’s masterful playing, left the Playhouse with smiles on their faces and comments about how spectacular the show was.
Originally printed in 4/12/17 edition.