'The Secret,' by Bedrich Smetana Often called "the father of Czech opera," Bedrich Smetana's composed 8 operas altogether, including the 1878 charmer, The Secret, a gentle folk tale about a family feud and long-delayed love.

'The Secret,' by Bedrich Smetana

From the Prague National Theatre

An Audio Introduction to 'The Secret'

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WHO'S WHO?

Miloslav Podskalsky ........ Malina

Roman Janal ................... Kalina

Katerina Jalovcova ......... Roza

Maria Haan ................ Blazenka

Tomas Cerny .................. Vit

Jiri Sulzenko ................. Bonifac

Vaclav Lemberk .............. Jirka

Prague National Theatre Orchestra and Chorus

Zbynek Mueller, conductor

MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS

In Act Three of The Secret, Blazenka knows that Vit is leaving and sings a song called "The Water from the High Hills," about staying faithful to a lost love.

Maria Haan sings Blazenka's Aria

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The second act features a key, solo scene for Kalina. He admits that he's flat broke, but he's still determined to strike it rich, and prove himself to Roza once and for all.

Roman Janal with Kalina's Monologue

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The village bell-ringer Jirka (Jiri Sulzenko) fans old rumors in the lively town of Bezdez, in Smetana's The Secret at the Prague National Theatre. Hana Smejkalova hide caption

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Hana Smejkalova

The power of nationalism has been a driving force in music for centuries, and the national sentiments of a broad spectrum of countries have inspired a world of great music.

One example is Finland, which has a home-bred, musical tradition embodied by one of the most famous works ever composed — "Finlandia" by Sibelius.

There was also a striking nationalist trend in the music of 19th-century Russia. We can still hear it in the world's opera houses — in the works of Glinka, who wrote a drama called A Life for the Tsar, and in the historical epics of Borodin and Mussorgsky.

And while the word "Bohemian" has come to have a number of meanings, it certainly describes one of music's strongest nationalistic currents — one that was especially evident in the works of Czech composers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Dvorak, Martinu and Janacek all wrote music steeped in the culture and traditions of their homeland, creating instrumental works brimming with the spirit and color of folk tunes, and songs and operas with a rhythmic energy springing directly from the unique cadences of the Czech language.

Still, when it comes to Czech musical nationalism, there's one composer in particular who played a vital role in getting the trend started, in the mid 1800's — Bedrich Smetana. His most famous composition is almost surely the orchestral masterpiece, "The Moldau." It's part of a set of 7 tone poems called "Ma Vlast" — or "My Country" — and magically evokes the convergence of many small streams, joining to form the powerful river that flows through Prague.

But Smetana displayed his love for Czech traditions even more vividly in the opera house. The most familiar of his 8 operas is the comedy The Bartered Bride, set in a small Czech village. Smetana used similar settings for a number of other operas, including a charmer called The Secret. Its story revolves around a hidden treasure — and the score is heard so rarely that the opera has become a sort of hidden treasure, as well.

On World of Opera, host Lisa Simeone presents Smetana's The Secret in a production that comes to us straight from the source, the Prague National Theatre, built in 1883 in a place that has come to symbolize the composer's national pride, on the banks of the Moldau River itself.

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