Budapest Opera House Announces Slavic Theme for 2023-24 Season

  • 28 Dec 2023 6:20 AM
Budapest Opera House Announces Slavic Theme for 2023-24 Season
The Hungarian State Opera has announced that it is dedicating its 140th season in 2023-24 to Slavic music, with 14 premieres and 40 works connected to Slavic culture, General Director Szilveszter Ókovács.

The programme of the 2023/24 season of the Hungarian State Opera offers 14 premieres including the world premieres of two Hungarian pieces, Rusalka and Boris Godunov returns to the repertoire in new productions, Plácido Domingo and Anna Netrebko will perform in concert performances, and the OPERA Orchestra will compile its concerts mainly from the works of Slavic composers in addition to a centenary Kodály concert.

The soloists and ensembles of the OPERA will also appear in Bucharest and Dubai this year.

Works by Czech, Polish, Russian and South Slavic composers are all included in the programme of OPERA's Slavic Season, but due to their themes, authors and other aspects, there are a total of 40 works in the 2023/24 repertoire that are connected to the Slavic culture.

Premieres of the Slavic Season

The season at the Opera House kicks off with an international guest performance on 22 August2023 as part of the Theatre Olympics: King Roger by 20th-century Polish composer Karol Szymanowski, an opera, imbued with a passion for Mediterranean and ancient culture, to be presented for the first time in Hungary by the State Theatre Košice, conducted by Peter Valentovič and directed by Anton Korenči.

For the first time in its 139-year history, the OPERA stages Rusalka by Dvořák with Andrea Brassói-Jőrös in the title role, directed by János Szikora and conducted by Gergely Kesselyák.

After Salzburg, Berlin, Madrid, Amsterdam, and Paris, Hungarian audiences can also get to know Mozart's Don Giovanni in the 2008 production by the multiple award-winning German director Claus Guth with Gábor Bretz in the title role under the baton of general music director Balázs Kocsár. Bretz is also to return as Boris Godunov in Mussorgsky's opera, which returns to the repertoire after more than two decades in the original version free from Rimsky-Korsakov's revisions.

The new production is directed by artistic director András Almási-Tóth and conducted by Balázs Kocsár.

In December 2023, the Eiffel Art Studios will present two world premieres of Hungarian pieces.

Internationally renowned composer Péter Eötvös' first Hungarian-language opera commissioned by the OPERA, promises to be a real sensation. Valuska, based on the novel The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai is conducted by the composer himself and staged by Bence Varga with Zsolt Haja in the title role. György Selmeczi's advent séance Artaban explores the story of the fourth wise man who missed the birth of Jesus.

The unique production takes place according to the concept of Szilveszter Ókovács and pianist Tamás Érdi: the audience can listen to the piece conducted by Péter Dobszay blindfolded, sitting in deck chairs. Another theatrical treat is the presentation of Fra Diavolo, ou L'hôtellerie de Terracine, which returns to repertoire after more than 60 years, and which is staged again by Miklós Szinetár, whose first direction at the OPERA was Auber's comic opera 70 years ago. The conductor of the performance is Kálmán Szennai.

The Hungarian National Ballet production Bartók Dance Triptych gets completed after this season's premiere of The Wooden Prince by László Velekei: The Miraculous Mandarin is staged by Marianna Venekei, the ensemble's ballet master, while Dance Suite is staged by the internationally employed choreographer Kristóf Várnagy. The conductor of the production is Gergely Vajda.

The Eiffel Art Studios will present a row of youth programmes in the new season. Donizetti's ll campanello will be adapted by Attila Toronykőy, a youth version of the popular Szörényi–Bródy rock opera will be created with the participation of the OPERA Children's Chorus and the students of the Hungarian National Ballet Institute entitled Stephen, the King (junior), directed and narrated by Pál Feke, in partnership with the Zikkurat Theatre Agency. Finally, the Hungarian National Ballet Institute will present its performance Little Corsaire, following the story of the classical ballet Le Corsaire.

Next summer's premiere of Rossini's popular comic opera, Il barbiere di Siviglia is to take place at the Margaret Island Open-Air Theatre. It is a re-imagination of  Csaba Káel's 2016 production, which will enter the Opera House repertoire in the 2024/25 season.

Repertoire productions at the Opera House

The season will go until mid-August 2024, making it a 12-month season for the first time in over a hundred years.

As part of the Slavic season, the repertoire performances at the Opera House will include Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades and Prokofiev's War and Peace.

In November, Wagner's Ring cycle can be seen in two series, on four consecutive days, performed almost exclusively by Hungarian artists, with the participation of Adrian Eröd and Renatus Mészár, who both have Hungarian ancestry. Due to its great success, Orff's scenic cantata Carmina Burana will be performed a total of 14 times by the Opera House.

 AidaUn ballo in mascheraNabuccoRigoletto and La traviata by Verdi, La bohèmeTosca and concert performances of Madama Butterfly by Puccini as well as, Hungarian pieces such as Hunyadi László by Erkel, The Spinning Room by Kodály, and King Pomádé's New Clothes by Ránki all return to the repertoire as will Arabella by Richard Strauss in a production revived by Sylvie Gábor based on Géza Bereményi's production.

Two productions, L'italiana in Algeri and La fille du régiment previously seen at the Erkel Theatre only will also be presented at the Opera House.

Repertoire productions at the Eiffel Art Studios and the Erkel Theatre

In addition to the above mentioned premieres, highly successful youth performances will take place at the Eiffel Art Studios including Little Swans Lake and Little Sleeping Beauty performed by the Hungarian National Ballet Institute, as well as the OPERA Children's Chorus productions of The Valiant Johnny and The Stubborn Princess, and Magic Flute for Children can be seen during the Christmas period.

The MVM Piccolo Programme and the Ervin Lázár Programme aimed at school children will feature Dido and Aeneas and [skikki] 2.0, and one performance from both series will be open to the general public as well. 

From April 2024, successful productions of previous seasons such as Figaro3Les Enfants TerriblesL'incoronazione di PoppeaThe Imaginary Invalid, or The Cabal of Hypocrites, and Pelléas et Mélisande will also return to the repertoire.

The Erkel Theatre will also reopen to the public for two series: John the Valiant in September 2023, and the symphonic version of Stephen, the King in May 2024.

Ballet repertoire

Seregi's Spartacus returns to the Opera House repertoire of the Hungarian National Ballet, along with The Pygmalion Effect (to be premiered later this season), OneginDon QuixoteLe corsaire and Mayerling.

A programme entitled Classical Bravura is compiled of the popular one-acts Paquita Suite, Petite Mort, Six Dances, and Études, and The Nutcracker is featured in the programme 42 times. A modern ballet show, Frenetic Dance including Walking Mad, The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude, 5 Tangos, and Sad Case can be seen at the Eiffel Art Studios.

Symphonic concerts

The concert of the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra also follow the theme of the Slavic Season. At the season-opening Opera186 concert on 27 September 2023 feature the Overture of Ruslan and Lyudmila by Glinka, Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5.

At the Ybl210 gala concert on 18 March 2024, Glazunov's ballet music The Seasons and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade will be performed. The highlight of the concert series is Golden Age: Slavs on 2 & 4 June 2024 including Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 and Mountain Suite by Suchoň as well as excerpts from The Bartered Bride by Smetana, Halka by Moniuszko, Zrínyi by Zajc, and Brankovics György by Erkel conducted by Oliver von Dohnányi.

Further highlights of the concert calendar include Psalmus100, a performance of Kodály's Psalmus Hungaricus on the centenary of its world premiere, Symphony No. 8 by Mahler, Requiem by Verdi, and Smyphony No. 9 by Beethoven.

International stars at the OPERA

For the first time, recurring guest star Plácido Domingo performs in a concert version of an opera in Budapest: on 4 & 8 December 2023, he sings the title role of Nabucco at the Opera House under the baton of Balázs Kocsár.

At the Eiffel Art Studios, Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov appear in the main roles of Il trovatore in a concert performance under the musical direction of Denis Vlasenko on 1 February 2024.

The Stars' Recitals with Piano series at the Opera House continues with intimate song and aria recitals by Kristīne Opolais, Piotr Beczała, Olga Peretyatko, Ferruccio Furlanetto, and Lisette Oropesa. A new series Prima Donnas features internationally renowned, Kossuth Prize recipient Hungarian divas Ilona Tokody, Ildikó Komlósi, Gyöngyi Lukács, Klára Kolonits, Eszter Sümegi, and Erika Miklósa.

Guest performances abroad

On the occasion of the centenary of the National Opera in Bucharest, the Hungarian State Opera was also invited to the Romanian capital.

The Budapest company will make a guest appearance on 23 June 2023, with a production of Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. In the past decade, OPERA has been a regular guest in the Middle East.

After Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman, the ensembles of the Hungarian State Opera will visit the United Arab Emirates in September 2023 with Madama Butterfly and the Hungarian National Ballet production of Swan Lake. Both productions are accompanied by the OPERA Orchestra.


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