Czech national opera until this time had been represented only by a number of minor, rarely performed works. This opera, Smetana's second, was part of his quest to create a truly Czech operatic genre. Smetana's musical treatment makes considerable use of traditional Bohemian dance forms such as the polka and furiant, although he largely avoids the direct quotation of folksong. He nevertheless created music which was accurately folk-like, and is considered by Czechs to be quintessentially Czech in spirit. The overture, often played as a concert piece independently from the opera, was, unusually, composed before almost any of the other music had been written.
After a performance at the Vienna Music and Theatre Exhibition of 1892, the opera achieved international recognition. It was performed in Chicago in 1893, London in 1895 and reached New York in 1909, subsequently becoming the first, and for many years the only, Czech opera in the general repertory. Many of these early international performances were in German, under the title Die verkaufte Braut, and the German language version continues to be played and recorded. A German film of the opera was made in 1932 by Max Ophüls.