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The Story Of "The Kiss"

Smetana's opera was composed in 1876 and premiered that same year at the Provisional Theater in Prague. Following a lively overture, the action begins at the home of Paloucky and his daughter Vendulka — and the two of them quickly get good news from Vendulka's aunt, Martinka.

Years ago, Vendulka fell in love with the young man Lukas. But his parents disapproved, and forced him to marry someone else. Since then, his parents and his wife have died, leaving Lukas alone with a small baby. Martinka has just heard that he's on his way to ask Paloucky's permission to marry Vendulka.

Lukas soon arrives, along with his brother-in-law, Tomes. According to custom, Vendulka leaves the room. Then, with a group of villagers looking on, Tomes announces their business. Paloucky agrees to allow the marriage, and all seems well.

But Lukas senses that Paloucky isn't all that enthusiastic about the whole thing and demands to know why. Reluctantly, Paloucky tells him. He says that both Vendulka and Lukas are quick tempered, stubborn and pigheaded — and that if they get together, there's sure to be trouble.

Lukas dismisses the concerns and Vendulka is brought in for a toast. But when Lukas asks her for a kiss, Vendulka turns away. Thinking she's just shy, the others leave the couple alone. But Vendulka still refuses to kiss Lukas. She says that until they're officially married, it would be an insult to his dead wife. Sure enough, there's an argument, and when Paloucky hears them going at it, he's quick to say, "I told you so."

Before long, Lukas stomps off and Martinka returns, saying she saw Lukas on his way to the local tavern. Naturally, Vendulka is upset. So Martinka changes the subject. She's been known to make a little money on the side by helping a group of smugglers, and invites Vendulka to help out with their next mission. Vendulka refuses. Left alone, she sings a lullaby to Lukas's child. Eventually, she falls asleep by the crib.

Later that night, she's awakened by a ruckus outside. Lukas is back from the pub, drunk, and with four young women in tow. He says that if Vendulka won't kiss him, he can surely find his kisses somewhere else. The scene rouses the villagers, and Vendulka is humiliated. As the act ends, she runs off to find Martinka. Maybe smuggling isn't such a bad idea after all.

ACT TWO begins deep in the forest, where we meet the band of smugglers, along with their leader, Matous. They all slip into the woods when Lukas appears. He's wracked with guilt and grief stricken — convinced that he's lost Vendulka forever. But Tomes, who followed him into the forest, says that if Lukas apologizes to Vendulka, she'll most likely forgive him. They go off, and the smugglers return, having overheard the whole scene.

The smugglers then meet up with Martinka, who has brought Vendulka along. Matous gives the women a package to smuggle into town. And he listens while Vendulka longs to be back with Lukas. So when the women leave, Matous goes off to find Lukas, and tell him that a sincere apology might just do the trick.

On their way home, Martinka and Vendulka run into a suspicious frontier guard. It's a close call, but the illegal package is hidden in a pear basket and the guard is more interested in grabbing a few tasty pears than looking for contraband.

The scene changes to Martinka's cottage in the woods, and the maidservant Barce appears. She's just run into Matous, who told her about his encounter with the repentant Lukas, and Barce wants to give Martinka the news.

After a while, the entire village approaches the cottage, along with Matous and Lukas. Paloucky says he's willing to forgive Lukas for his crass behavior and allow the wedding to proceed. When Vendulka and Martinka finally arrive, Vendulka is overjoyed to see Lukas. But then the two start to argue — again! This time Vendulka wants a kiss, and Lukas refuses. He says he won't do it until she accepts his apology, and forgives him. She does, and the two embrace as the opera ends.

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