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The imaginatively programmed Bartók Plus Opera Festival begins in Miskolc, Hungary, this Friday evening, 14 June 2019. The festival opens with an opera gala in the Grand Theatre at Miskolc National Theatre.
Miskolc, Hungary's fourth largest city, is situated in the North East of the country, near to the border with Slovakia, where it is the regional centre of Northern Hungary and the capital city of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county.
To give a flavour of the unusual nature of this festival, the 14 June opening gala, featuring the Orchestra and Choir of the Hungarian State Opera House conducted by Gergely Kesselyák, with soloists Ágnes Molnár, Brigitta Kele, Csilla Boross, Szabolcs Brickner and Erik Fenton, includes music by Korngold, Shostakovich, Puccini and two lesser-known composers.
Italian composer Aldo Finzi (1897-1945) was born in Milan. His Jewish family came originally from Mantua, and it was this background and the prevailing political situation which prevented performance of his comic opera La serenata al vento, which won the opera competition at La Scala. World War II and Aldo Finzi's early death are the main reasons for his music's neglect outside of Italy, until now. It's possible that he was a distant relative of the English composer Gerald Finzi, whose father was of Italian origin.
The other composer featured in the opening gala is Albin Fries (born 1955), from Upper Austria, who won the 2018 Bartók Plus Opera Composition Competition. In a very practical way, Miskolc's festival is promoting Fries' music, showcasing an aria from the winning opera, Nora, which will be performed complete at 7pm on Thursday 20 June. Composer Albin Fries writes:
My plan was to write a counterpart to the intellectual operas of today, an opera about love once again. I purposely chose a sentimental libretto. Since my musical style is late Romantic tonal, the story is also set between 1890 and 1910. What is the message of the opera? Perhaps that the protagonist Arthur can only understand the pure quality of love by loving his child.
The Bartók Plus Opera Festival runs until Sunday 23 June, and features artists such as the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Hungarian National Choir, the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra Miskolc, the Asan Civic Choir, the Orchestra and Choir of the Miskolc National Theatre, Israel Contemporary Players, Zsolt Nagy, Konstantia Gourzi, and Igudesman & Joo. The final Three Tenors Gala on 23 June and the performance of Puccini's La bohème on 15 June have already sold out.
For Bartók lovers, temptations include a complete performance of Bluebeard's Castle, plus some fascinating Bartók-jazz fusion from the Péter Sárik Trio.
Also of note is the first Hungarian performance of Péter Eötvös' 2014 opera The Golden Dragon, Scriabin's Prometheus: The Poem of Fire (performed with accompanying light show from a colour organ) and a chance to hear the highly dramatic opera Iris by Pietro Mascagni, telling a story from ancient Japan which also resonates with fundamental questions about life and death.
Full details of the festival can be found online via the link below, but if you're not free to attend, Classical Music Daily's Anett Fodor will be in residence for the whole festival, reporting back to us all regularly from Miskolc.
There's further information about all the events in Miskolc, plus booking information here: operafesztival.hu
Posted 13 June 2019 by Keith Bramich