Vašek’s Stuttering in the Opera „The Bartered Bride“ by Karel Sabina and Bedřich Smetana (A Phoniatric Analysis)


Authors: K. Vrtička
Authors‘ workplace: Karlova Univerzita v Praze ;  Kantonální nemocnice v Lucernu ;  Univerzita ve Fribourgu (Švýcarsko)
Published in: Otorinolaryng. a Foniat. /Prague/, 61, 2012, No. 4, pp. 255-260.
Category: Original Papers

Overview

Vašek (Wenzel) in „The Bartered Bride“ („Prodaná nevěsta“) is the only main character in the world operatic literature who constantly stutters during his whole presence in seven scenes. „The Bartered Bride“ is a comic opera and Vašek’s childish simple-mindedness and his speech disorder are intended to make the audience laugh heartily. However, Sabina and Smetana never make the poor village guy Vašek the laughing-stock and have an indulgent comprehension for his impediment.

The Czech writer Karel Sabina (1813 - 1877) originally provided to the composer Bedřich Smetana (1824 - 1884) a superficial libretto for a comic operetta in one act. Sabina was highly successful in depicting the dual personality of the both ridiculous and pitiful stuttering village adolescent Vašek but expressed his disfluency simply by mechanical repeating of syllables. Smetana not only composed the wonderful music. He also gave the work its name „The Bartered Bride“, and gradually mastered the dramaturgy and the text into the definitive layout we have been enjoying till today. Quite specifically, he rephrased Vašek’s interrupted speech into a stuttering musical expression. The musicologists agree about the quite natural sounding of Vašek’s stuttered uttering. The medical literature has been so far focused on Smetana’s health disorders due to his syphilitic disease. Only some nameless „laryngologists“ were quoted maintaining that it is quite impossible to stutter in Vašek’s way. No systematic phoniatric analysis of his fluency disorder has been published.

The present study is assessing and enumerating Vašek’s tonic, clonic and tonoclonic speech blockades. It also delivers musical examples of his effective stuttered phrases and compares them to scientific descriptions and objective registrations of physical (external) and psychical (internal) symptoms of stuttering in phoniatric textbooks. It confirms the complete agreement of Smetana’s artistic expression of speech disfluency with the real stuttering.

Key words:
stuttering, physical and psychical symptoms of stuttering, stuttering in the opera, Vašek in „The Bartered Bride“, „The Bartered Bride“ by K. Sabina and B. Smetana.


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Labels
Audiology Paediatric ENT ENT (Otorhinolaryngology)

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