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2014 Most Successful Year For Budapest Opera In Its Modern History, Director General Says

Ferenc Sullivan 2014.12.28.

The Hungarian State Opera will close 2014 with a record high number of visitors, performances and ticket sales revenue for the past 25 years, Director General Szilveszter Ókovács told the state news agency MTI in an end-of-year interview.

“The number of visitors paying for a ticket exceeded 550 000 even if open-air and off-site events and charity programmes are not included in the calculation, and at least a further one million people saw or listened to Opera House events such as a full play, a gala or a film produced by the institution, through public media broadcasts.” He added that 2014’s success of a record number of performances, sold tickets and ticket revenue since the fall of communism can be attributed in part to Budapest’s reopened Erkel Theatre, which is managed by the Opera House and pointed out that the country’s largest cultural institution has outperformed the year 2001 several times despite its budget having a real value of 80 per cent of that year. Concerning finances, the Director General said that beside its  own revenues, the Budapest Opera received HUF 7.6 billion (EUR 24m) and the Erkel Theatre 1.1 billion forints in state support this year.

Large audiences at the Erkel Theatre prove that there is a demand from spectators of more modest means for “high” culture, meaning that the opera and ballet are not “elite” genres. The mission of the Opera House as a national institution is to perform for the entire Hungarian society and provide access to the artistic world of contemporary theatre alongside classical pieces, he stressed.

The Budapest Opera’s outstanding event this year was the Richard Strauss Festival in May-June, which paid tribute to the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, the Director General said.  By putting on stage six of Strauss’s operas, “we embarked on a mission that even German theatres that are instrumental in performing Strauss works had not considered on the anniversary,” he said, adding that the highlight production was the Woman without a Shadow, which took three years to prepare. The other five operas included Arabella, Salome, Ariadne on Naxos, the Knight of the Rose and Elektra. The festival closed with a concert performed by the Opera House’s Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Pinchas Steinberg, who arrived in Budapest to take up his assignment as BFTZ’s chairman-conductor in February.

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