BUDAPEST — The grand, gilded Hungarian Accompaniment Opera Abode actuality is breadth Brahms already heard Mahler conduct Mozart. It’s breadth Bartok’s still-shocking “Bluebeard’s Castle” had its premiere a aeon ago. It’s breadth the artisan Matthew Barney attempt allotment of his “Cremaster” cycle, and Jennifer Lawrence filmed scenes for her agitated abstruseness “Red Sparrow,” in which she played a ballerina-turned-spy.
These days, the abode is additionally arising as a beam point in Hungary’s ability wars.
The opera aggregation is in the bosom of one of its better expansions ever, acknowledgment to the advance of hundreds of millions of dollars by the added absolute bourgeois government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is architecture what he calls an “illiberal democracy” and has declared Hungary’s theaters, opera houses and concert halls as “temples of civic culture.” The money is advantageous for the aboriginal above check of the Accompaniment Opera aback the Cold War, as able-bodied as a architecture bacchanalia that will leave it with three theaters aback assignment is completed aing year.
But in the bosom of its country’s rightward turn, the aggregation has afresh admiring controversy. It canceled some performances of the agreeable “Billy Elliot” afterwards a bourgeois bi-weekly denounced the assignment as “gay propaganda” and staged “Porgy and Bess” with white singers, adjoin the wishes of its creators’ estates.
This month, the Accompaniment Opera and the Hungarian Civic Ballet are bringing 350 singers, dancers and musicians to New York to accomplish about two weeks of absolutely staged operas and ballets. The calendar includes “Bluebeard’s Castle,” Karl Goldmark’s rarely staged “The Queen of Sheba” and “Bank Ban,” an 1861 Ferenc Erkel assignment advised the civic opera of Hungary, as able-bodied as ballets including “Swan Lake” and “Don Quixote.” The bout will run from Oct. 30 through Nov. 11 at the David H. Koch Amphitheater at Lincoln Center.
“Our agreeable ancestry has consistently been actual strong, and we accept to aback it,” Szilveszter Okovacs, the accepted administrator of the opera, said in an account actuality aftermost spring, answer that it fabricated faculty to bout while the capital opera abode was bankrupt for renovations.
The aggressive and big-ticket bout comes at a moment aback abounding of Hungary’s arch classical musicians, abnormally those with all-embracing careers, accept criticized the Orban government. The eminent pianist Andras Schiff no best performs in Hungary, breadth he was born. (“I’m a abundant adversary of the political bearings there now,” he told the BBC in 2013.)
Adam Fischer, a approved conductor, stepped bottomward as music administrator of the Accompaniment Opera in 2010 in allotment to beef the Orban government’s policies. His brother Ivan, the music administrator of the acclaimed Budapest Anniversary Orra, is an abrupt adherent of animal rights at home and abroad. But both Fischers, who are amid Hungary’s best admired artists, still accomplish there: Adam leads a Wagner anniversary that draws audiences from about the apple to Budapest, and the Budapest Anniversary Orra continues to accept some government support.
The Accompaniment Opera and Ballet’s aboriginal United States appointment comes as the Trump administering has been authoritative overtures to Mr. Orban’s Hungary. Both President Trump and Mr. Orban came to ability demography a adamantine band adjoin clearing and allure the right. Both campaigned adjoin George Soros, the advanced investor. Both accept emerged as able critics of the European Union. Mr. Trump’s above arch strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, has declared Mr. Orban as “Trump afore Trump.”
One breadth area they diverge, though, is the arts. Mr. Trump tried, but failed, to annihilate the Civic Endowment for the Arts and the Civic Endowment for the Humanities, and has had an afraid accord with artists, abounding of whom accept been about analytical of his policies. Mr. Orban, on the added hand, has fabricated big investments in culture, seeing it as an important basic of civic identity. Afterwards his re-election in April, the government’s website appear that the opera brilliant Plácido Domingo had congratulated Mr. Orban in a letter, praising him as “a abundant adherent of the arts and culture.”
Classical music and ball are amid the best all-embracing art forms and accept played a big role in cultural address over the years. But they can activity tensions as well. During several contempo visits to the United States, the Russian aqueduct Valery Gergiev has admiring protests by advocates for gay rights and Ukrainian autonomy; aftermost spring, the Philadelphia Orra drew pro-Palestinian demonstrators who were adjoin to its bout of Israel.
Michael M. Kaiser, who acclimated to accompany visiting all-embracing companies to the Kennedy Center consistently aback he led it, said that the backroom circuitous in the Hungarian bout could advance to tensions.
“I anticipate there are absolutely elements of discomfort,” said Mr. Kaiser, the administrator of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland. “We in the arts consistently appetite to accept that we are assuming off the actual best of humankind.”
In Hungary, Mr. Orban’s Fidesz affair has confused to apply added ascendancy over cultural accessories in contempo years, allotment array of amphitheater admiral beyond the country. Mr. Okovacs, a accomplished accompanist with a abysmal ability of opera and a showman’s adroitness for admirers development initiatives, formed as a television controlling afore he became accepted administrator of the Accompaniment Opera in 2011.
”If addition forms a government,” he said, “of advance he gives positions to bodies he can trust, to run it smoothly.”
But, he added: “It’s not a bad thing. At the opera, it has been so for 135 years. It has consistently been a Accompaniment Opera. And that’s breadth it stops: They accept never acclimatized any pressure.”
And at a time aback added above cities, including New York and London, accept begin it difficult to abutment two opera houses, Hungary has reopened a second, the Erkel Theater, run by the Accompaniment Opera as a lower-priced alternative. Mr. Okovacs acclaimed that it was the Orban government that brought aback the Erkel in 2013, afterwards it had been bankrupt for several years.
Now the aggregation is in a agitation of construction. It hopes to complete the advance of its capital abode by September. A few afar away, architecture crews are architecture a third amphitheater for chamber-size works in a alveolate 19th-century railway aliment shop. The opera abode is axis the ability into a sprawling, 237,000-square-foot circuitous of workshops, call studios and accumulator amplitude alleged the Eiffel Art Studios. It will accommodate a restaurant in a best abuse car.
And the ballet has been adapted in contempo years. The abstraction for the New York bout began with Tamas Solymosi, the administrator of the ballet, who has assassin a ample cardinal of new artists — abbreviating the boilerplate age of the dancers by about a decade, he said, to 25 or 26 — brought altered repertoire, and accustomed a new school, the Hungarian Civic Ballet Institute.
Now, he said, the aggregation was accessible for the apple stage. Unlike the Accompaniment Opera, which is bringing Hungarian works on tour, the ballet is authoritative a point of absorption primarily on acclaimed classics. Mr. Solymosi, who had an all-embracing career as a dancer, said he capital the New York admirers to accept a advertence point. “How can they can absolutely adjudicator the aggregation if I accompany article they’ve never seen?” he said.
The Accompaniment Opera’s programming is all-encompassing — it has captivated added performances than any above opera aggregation in contempo years, by some counts — and inventive. A Puccini anniversary this division appearance hits (both a acceptable “La Bohème” staging for purists and a avant-garde take, “La Bohème 2.0”) as able-bodied as rarities, including “Edgar.” The aggregation is assuming dozens of altered titles, including Meyerbeer’s “Les Huguenots”; a staging of two amateurish Mozart operas, “L’Oca del Cairo, ossia lo Sposo Deluso”; and affluence of war horses.
In May it acclaimed the bazaar of “Bluebeard’s Castle” with a arresting new assembly conducted by the acclaimed Hungarian artisan Peter Eotvos and directed by Kasper Holten, the above administrator of opera at the Royal Opera in London. The achievement was accepted by the analyzer John Allison in Opera magazine, who acclaimed that “no orra has lived with this music more.” (The aggregation will accompany a altered “Bluebeard” assembly to New York, but the aforementioned able cast: Andras Palerdi as Bluebeard and Ildiko Komlosi as his bride, Judit.)
But the Accompaniment Opera has additionally courted controversy. In January, it staged “Porgy and Bess” with white singers — over the objections of the Gershwin brothers’ estates, which ask that the assignment be performed with atramentous casts. The staging drew criticism abroad, but additionally acclaim aural Hungary from some who saw it as arresting a draft adjoin political correctness. The production, army during Mr. Orban’s re-election campaign, relocated the activity to a hangar-like amplitude abounding of abandoned bodies analytic for a promised acreage — reminding some of the refugee crisis that afflicted the Budapest alternation base in 2015, and of Mr. Orban’s able anti-immigration stance.
“There was absolutely asinine affected account about our ‘Porgy’ production,” Mr. Okovacs said in the interview, switching briefly from Hungarian to English to apply a admired byword of Mr. Trump’s.
Less than a ages afterwards that account aftermost spring, his aggregation was authoritative all-embracing account again, this time for abandoning 15 performances of a awakening of the agreeable “Billy Elliot” afterwards a columnist in Magyar Idok, a pro-government newspaper, denounced it as gay propaganda.
The columnist, Zsofia N. Horvath, questioned how a accompaniment academy could date such a show. “Promoting uality cannot be a civic ambition in a bearings aback the citizenry is abbreviating and aging, and our citizenry is threatened by adopted invasion,” she wrote.
In a acknowledgment appear in the newspaper, Mr. Okovacs questioned whether operas by Mozart, Strauss and Beethoven featuring women who dress as men were gay propaganda, too — and acclaimed that the Accompaniment Opera sends a CD to the ancestors of every bairn Hungarian baby.
“Just because article that is an actual allotment of activity appears onstage at the opera,” he wrote, “it doesn’t beggarly we are announcement it.”
The aggregation said that it canceled 15 of the 44 planned performances not because of the criticism, but because the blowback had attenuated admirers interest.
Andrea Tompa, a Hungarian amphitheater analyzer who has accounting about the growing political access on the assuming arts in Hungary, said that she bent one of the actual “Billy Elliot” performances afterwards the firestorm. “What is absolutely alarming is that these institutions don’t booty able positions,” she said in a blast interview. “Even if their aesthetic leaders accept able political relationships.”
Over the summer, as the altercation died down, Mr. Okovacs appear the affair of aing year’s opera season, which seems far beneath acceptable to agitate criticism in the bourgeois press: Christianity.
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