Performed in the original Czech with Czech and English subtitles.
Premiere on 4th December 2015, Janáček Theatre
It’s really just about a kiss?
What happens when two big‑headed and stubborn people fall in love with each other? Today an argument about a pre‑marital kiss may seem to us as a true opera cliché but don’t we sometimes quarrel over bigger trifles? They are both well past the age of eighteen and Vendulka has already come to terms with the fact that while Lukáš had to marry another woman, she has to stay alone. The situation suddenly changes, although at the price of another woman’s life…What happens internally to Vendulka at this moment and how does she cope with the situation when the whole village keep their eyes on them? When working on the piece, the composer went through the most tragic period in his life. An illness gradually deprived him of hearing and The Kiss was the first opera he wrote completely deaf. Perhaps that was the reason why there were many more layers in the music of The Kiss. Smetana shifted the piece, written by the outstanding Czech poet Eliška Krásnohorská and based on a humorous story of the same name by Karolina Světlá, from a “genre painting” depicting the life in a village under the mountains to much deeper characters and gave the story a timeless meaning.
Lukáš and Vendulka are in love, but Lukáš’s parents are opposed to the match and force him to wed a diff erent girl. Soon aft er the birth of their child Lukáš’s wife dies, and since by this time his parents are also dead there is nothing to stop Lukáš once more asking for his beloved Vendulka’s hand. He arrives with his brother-in-law Tomeš to see Paloucký for this purpose. Everything goes well until, with tears in his eyes, her father Paloucký says that their stubbornness means they are not suited. Lukáš laughs off his warning, but it soon turns out that Vendulka’s father is right. Lukáš asks for a kiss, but Vendulka refuses to before the wedding, out of respect for his late wife, and an acrimonious row breaks out.
They bring a cradle with Lukáš’s child to Paloucký’s and Vendulka sings a lullaby. Lukáš arrives and once again asks for a kiss, refusing to accept Vendulk’s reasons for not wanting to. In the end the furious Vendulka throws Lukáš from the cottage and he heads for the pub to drow his rage. Not even the reasonable words of Vendulka’s Aunt Martinka, in the village to look for help with errands for the mugglers, can change Vendulka’s mind. Vendulka falls asleep over the cradle, to be woken by a boisterous tune. Lukáš has returned from the pub with some musicians and several girls. He mocks Vendulka and demonstrates how easy it is for him to satisfy his desire for kisses. The off ended and mortified Vendulka does not want to be the target of the mockery of malicious neighbours and runs away to her Aunt Martinka.
Aunt Martinka lives in the mountains, on the border. From her youth, like all her fellow countrymen, she has supplemented her income by smuggling. Vendulka’s arrival makes her happy, as at last she will have a helper in her night-time trips through the forest. A band of smugglers led by Matouš are quietly making their way through the forest to hand over their contraband to Martinka. When Matouš sees Vendulka with Martinka he goes to Lukáš to let him know where his beloved is hiding, as the now sober and contrite Lukáš is looking for her. Vendulka is not made for night-time trips in the dark forest. An encounter with order guards scares her. Her aunt tries to persuade her to make her peace with Lukáš, but Vendulka refuses. She has no idea however that Lukáš, on the advice of his brother- in-law, has invited the whole village to witness him beg Vendulka’s forgiveness. Everyone arrives, even her father Paloucký. Vendulka willingly forgives Lukáš, but there is almost another row about the kiss, which this time she wants and Lukáš refuses. In the end they fall into each other’s arms and seal their love with a kiss.