The Secret (opera)
|Opera by Bedřich Smetana|
The composer before 1880
|Premiere||7 November 1878
Nové České Divadlo, Prague
The Secret (Czech: Tajemství) is a comic opera in three acts by Bedřich Smetana. The libretto was written by Eliška Krásnohorská. The premiere took place on 18 September 1878 at the Nové České Divadlo (New Czech Theatre) in Prague.
Krásnohorská proposed the idea for a new opera to Smetana two weeks after the opening of The Kiss, but kept details of the plot a secret from the composer until July 1877, when a draft outline, drawing on several sources, including Les femmes et le secret by La Fontaine, was sent to him. The librettist had set the action in the small town of Bĕlá in the Bezdĕz mountains, visible from Smetana's home in the country. Fighting his increasing deafness and resultant depression, Smetana made a few small changes to Krásnohorská's original draft and delivered a full score to the New Czech Theatre on 4 August 1877, for the premiere in September. The through composition evident in The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and Libuše is absent; a pot-pourri overture prefaces a sequence of choruses, duets, arias and ensemble pieces, but the characters are portrayed with more feeling and drawn from life, rather than the more stock characters of The Bartered Bride and The Two Widows.
The opera was not as successful as Smetana had hoped; after its opening run, it was seen only a dozen more times during his lifetime and was unperformed for twenty years after that. In 1922 it came back into the repertory of the Prague National Theatre. It has been in the repertoire in the Czech capital ever since, under conductors such as Jaroslav Vogel, Václav Talich, Jaroslav Krombholc and Zdeněk Košler and many eminent Czech singers among the principals.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 18 September 1878
(Conductor: Adolf Čech)
|Blaženka, Malina's daughter||soprano||Marie Zofie Sittová|
|Bonifác, veteran soldier||bass||František Mareš|
|Vít, a huntsman, Kalina's son||tenor||Antonín Vávra|
|Kalina, a councillor||baritone||Josef Lev|
|Panna Róza, Malina's sister||contralto||Betty Fibichová|
|Malina, a councillor||bass||Karel Cech|
|Skřivánek, a singer||tenor||Adolf Krössing|
|Jirka, a bell-ringer||tenor||Jan Sára|
|The Ghost of Barnabáš||bass||Ferdinand Koubek|
|An entrepreneur||baritone||Leopold Stopniockÿ|
|Chorus: Councillors, neighbours, boys and girls, threshers, bricklayers,
shadows and apparitions, bagpipers.
Twenty years before, Councillor Kalina had asked for the hand of Róza Malinova who turned him down because of his lack of wealth. Kalina then married a woman of similar status. Róza never married and regrets having rejected Kalina.
Kalina has had a house built for himself across the town square from the Malinas’. He is now widowed but puts on a show of wealth. He is unaware that his son Vitek has fallen in love with the daughter of his rival councillor, the brother of Róza. Kalina discovers by chance an ancient document and map which contain directions from an old friar Barnabáš, how he might find treasure hidden under Mount Bezděz. As he is in debt, Kalina determines to take the prompts of the friar. However, the tunnel he digs leads him to underneath a room in the Malinas’ house, where his son has been making his farewells to his forbidden love Blaženka.
It becomes clear that the aim of the old Barnabáš was to make Kalina discover his ‘treasure’: his old love Róza. The opera ends happily, with a double wedding.
- 1982, Zdeněk Košler conductor, Prague National Theatre Orchestra and Chorus; Jaroslav Horáček, Václav Zítek, Věra Soukupová, Daniela Šounová, Leo Marian Vodička, Karel Průša, Oldřich Spisar, Bohuslav Maršík, Eva Hlobilová, Alfréd Hampel, Pavel Horáček
- 1958, Jaroslav Krombholc conductor. Prague National Theatre Orchestra and Chorus. Karel Kalaš, Přemysl Kočí, Štěpánka Štěpánová, Štefa Petrová, Ivo Žídek /Supraphon
- Large B. Smetana's 'The Secret'. Musical Times, May 1972, 452-4.
- Page for Tajemství at the archive of the National Theatre, with many photos accessed 29 November 2017.
- Desmond Shawe-Tayor. Amateur and School Performances · Oxford University Opera Club. The Secret (December 7). Opera, February 1957, Vol.8 No.2 p124-125.
- Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Tajemství, 18 September 1878". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).