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Stunning Gala Performance of Hungarian Opera & Ballet

Photo by Attila Nagy.
The marvelous Hungarian State Opera and Hungarian National Ballet presented a wonderful gala performance at the David Koch Theater on the evening of Sunday, November 4th, as part of its American debut tour which thus far has been a revelation.
The audience stood with the chorus for Ferenc Erkel’s moving “Himnusz”, the national anthem of Hungary, after which the winsome mistress of ceremonies addressed the guests followed by the appearance of celebrated soprano and former star of the Metropolitan Opera, Éva Marton, who spoke about her career. Legendary Placido Domingo delivered a recorded greeting and then the Hungarian Secretary of State for Culture, Peter Fekete spoke as well.
The excellent Overture to Erkel’s famous opera, Hunyadi László, preceded two further excerpts from the same work: La Grange’s aria, sung by Orsolya Hajnalka Rőser, and the Act I Finale, “Meghalt a cselszövő”, sung by István Horváth. Two excerpts from the same composer’s magnificent Bánk Bán followed: Petur’s aria sung by Zoltán Kelemen and Bánk’s aria, “Hazám, hazám”, sung by Boldizsár László. Contemporary choreographer Hans Van Manen’s effective Trois Gnossiemes, set to glorious piano music by Erik Satie preceded the thrilling Whirling—choreographed by András Lukács and set to music by Philip Glass—which was reminiscent of the work of Twyla Tharp and exquisitely closed the first half of the program.
After intermission, the dancers were electrifying in the fabulous Pas de trois from the superb Marius Petipa ballet, Le Corsaire. Piano soloist József Balog then took the stage to play Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Fantasy and also played another work by the same composer while accompanying a lovely acrobat performing a remarkable aerial show.
The General Director of the company then recounted the impressive number of Hungarian conductors that have led major American orchestras after which the evening concluded with extraordinary music by the great Hungarian composer, Zoltán Kodály. First, there were two excerpts from the renowned opera, Háry János: “Szegény vagyok”, sung by Erika Gál, and the Intermezzo accompanying an astonishing quintet of folk dancers. Two numbers from The Spinning Room followed: “A csitári hegyek alatt” sung by Horváth and Zita Szemere, with more acrobatics; and the work’s memorable Finale which featured the company as a whole. The audience was invited to sing another of Hungary’s national anthems which it did with appropriate solemnity. This exceptional event was a fine tribute to the nation’s outsized contribution to world culture.

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