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Monday, October 1, 2018

Festival Preview: Hungarian National Opera

Two weeks of opera and ballet, Budapest style.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Baritone Levente Molár in a scene from Erkel's seminal Hungarian opera Bánk Bán.
Photo by Attila Nagy. Image © 2018 the Hungarian National Opera.
The Hungarians are coming! For the first time since 2010, the David Koch Theater on the south side of Lincoln Center Plaza will resound with the sound of opera as the Hungarian National Opera comes to New York for a two week festival. The company is currently facing major renovations of its own house in Budapest. So they've decided to bring the exciting and colorful variety of operas from its own country to one of the big Lincoln Center stages. All performances will feature the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra under the baton of music director  Balázs Kocsár.

The Operas: 

Bánk Bán  (Oct. 30, Nov. 3 8pm)
Bánk Bán  is unknown to North American opera lovers. This marks the United States stage premiere of the most important Hungarian opera of the 19th century. Based on a nationalist play about a court official embroiled in a political conspiracy, Ferenc Erkel's 1861 opera galvanized the growing Hungarian nationalist movement. This led to the country's eventual independence following World War I. It is the traditional season opener for the Hungarian National Opera and serves to open the Festival on Oct. 30. Levente Molár sings the title role.

Duke Bluebeard's Castle/Marlo the Magician (Nov. 1 7:30pm)
Béla Bartók's Duke Bluebeard's Castle is the most famous Hungarian opera ever written and the only work from that country that has entered the standard international operatic repertory. It is a one-act  psychodrama, in which a newlywed wife gradually discovers that her imposing husband is actually a brutal serial killer. Marlo the Magician is based on a story by Thomas Mann, a sharp-tongued opera from 1988 that critiques the rise of fascism in all of its ugliness.

The Queen of Sheba (Nov. 2 7:30 pm)
Karl Goldmark is one of many Vienna composers whose rich catalogue of works were wiped off the stage by the Nazis. The Queen of Sheba is his first opera, and was for many years a perennial on the stage of the Austrian capital. Here, this spectacular opera returns to the stage in America for the first time in over a century in a spectacular, traditional production. Mezzo-soprano Erika Gál sings the title role.

The Concerts:
On November 4 there is a gala performance, raising funds for the Hungarian National Opera with excerpts from operas, ballets, and the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 at the Koch Theater. The Humgarian Symphony Orchestra will give a concert on Monday, November 5 on the stage at Carnegie Hall the musicians play Bartok's Miraculous Mandarin suite and Erno von Dohnanyi's Symphonic Minutes.

The Ballets: 
The second week of the festival at Lincoln Center focuses on performances of traditional and modern Hungarian ballets. Nov. 7 offers Swan Lake. Nov. 9 features Minkus' Don Quixote. On Nov. 11, the festival ends with LOL, three modern pieces by Hans von Lincoln Center focuses on performances of traditional and modern Hungarian ballets. Nov. 6-8 offers Swan Lake, Nov. 9-10 features Minkus' Don Quixote and on Nov. 11, the festival ends with LOL, three modern pieces by Hans von Manen.

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