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Gergely KesselyákGergely KesselyákInterview with Gergely Kesselyák, director of the Miskolc Opera Festival. The interview was made some days before the start of the festival.


The Miskolc Opera Festival of this year begins with the premiere of a Hungarian opera, Gyula Fekete’s The story of a mother. As I know, you have wanted to present this work for a long time.

I consider Gyula Fekete an excellent composer, opera composer. I first told him after the premiere of his opera The redeemed town that I deem the creation of the genre of modern popular operas very important. Which idea became the leitmotif of the Miskolc Opera Festival ten years later. I added, that with his openness, musical education, composing abilities and operatic skill I would also very much like him to write an opera of this kind. That is, to create a work, which is contemporary classical music, but at the same time - to put it simply - beautiful and can be received easily by a wider audience, as well. Several months later Gyula Fekete rang me up, and played to me his new work The story of a mother on the piano. So I myself also played a small part in the creation of this work, but for several reasons we had to wait ten more years for the premiere of his opera.

How susceptible do you think other Hungarian composers are to this ’popular opera’ concept? Can we expect premieres of other, similar Hungarian works, too?

Fortunately there are also other Hungarian and foreign works, of course, which would be very good to present. However, the Miskolc Opera Festival - thank goodness, I may add - would not be able to premiere all the new Hungarian operas, as our financial resources are limited. But many composers in Hungary have already made the concept their own, that opera should be a valuable, high-standard, yet, popular genre again. Some years ago the Opera Festival announced its new conception, in the spirit of which it calls the composers of the world to write new, modern, popular operas, which can combine the popularity of musicals with the highest aesthetic aspirations of classical music. This trend was not found out by ourselves, of course, there is an obvious demand for it all over the world. In my opinion, on the part of the audience there has always been such a demand, but by now composers have accepted it, too. They themselves would also like to be popular and make it accepted that if a piece is popular, it does not necessarily mean it is ’pop music’. So, with its ambition the Opera Festival has only taken a leading position of this world trend and has become an advocate of it, though I have no information, that anyone would have taken this role institutionally.

Gergely KesselyákGergely KesselyákWhat can we know about the budget of the Festival this year? Could you succeed in stepping forward in this field, compared to last year?

This year the amount of money available for us is a bit less than last year. Then we could increase the sponsorship money, though we knew that a part of it is only a one-time income, which cannot secure the long-term future of the Festival. For that we need more financial support from the central budget. Because a town is not able to run an international festival by itself alone, neither here, nor in any other country. I hope that next year the Festival will be given a larger amount of financial support from the central budget. Similarly, there are financial reasons behind our decision, that our Opera Composition Competition is put off for next year. To which competition several interesting applications were submitted, by the way, and we plan to present them at the Festival next year. 

Now let us move to this year’s progamme! We have already talked about the first performance of Gyula Fekete’s opera, but there are other opera performances, too, which seem to be interesting and exciting. Let’s start with Puccini’s Turandot.

This work will be presented here by the National Theatre Brno - Janáček Opera House. We have enjoyed Balázs Kovalik’s fantastic Turandot-staging at the Hungarian State Opera House for years, now the audience of the Miskolc Opera Festival can see this work in another direction, which will be performed in the Ice Hall of Miskolc.

Just as the performance of Il trovatore.

Il trovatore will be premiered here by the Hungarian State Opera House and the Miskolc Opera Festival together. It is a revival of the opera, which first can be seen in Miskolc, then, from the next season at Erkel Theatre in Budapest. We have invited two excellent guest performers: Hector Lopez Mendoza as Manrico and Alexandru Aghenie, in the role of Count Luna. Leonora and Azucena will be performed by two prominent Hungarian singers: Gabriella Létay Kiss and Andrea Ulbrich.

Contrary to its tradition, last year Bartók’s Bluebeard’s castle was not performed, but this year it is part of the programme again. As I know, this production will be special.

Yes, the 1918 premiere of the Hungarian Royal Opera House will come to life. The stage setting was reconstructed by the design plan of Miklós Bánffy, who was the intendant of the Opera House at that time. The stage-director is Miklós Szinetár, the conductor is György Selmeczi. The work will be performed by the Hungarian Opera, Cluj.

Prokofiev’s The fiery angel promises to be exciting, too.

I fell in love with this piece many years ago, I think it is a fantastic work. Now it will be performed by the company of the Csokonai Theatre of Debrecen, who have been playing it for some years in the direction of Silviu Purcărete. Here we can also hear a guest performer in the person of baritone Sébastien Soulès. Renata will be interpreted by Éva Bátori, the conductor will be Ádám Medveczky.

Gergely KesselyákGergely KesselyákFor opera fans the performance of Poulenc’s opera The human voice, written for one soprano role seems to be a real treat. It will be performed together with Italian composer Girolamo Deraco’s opera premiere Facebooking the same night.

Girolamo Deraco’s name is well-known for the audience of the Miskolc Opera Festival: his 8-second opera - which is a world record - was premiered here two years ago, and last year we could listen to his instrumental composition. His new opera Facebooking is also written for one soprano, but also for a piano and a tablet… I am glad, that this talented, young composer will be here again this year.

Besides operas several other programs will be organized for the visitors of the Festival. For example, we can listen to John Rutter’s composition Magnificat. I do not think it is well-known to the public.

The contemporary British composer’s most famous work is his Requiem, but we decided, that in a Summer festival, and performed by a choir of youngsters - the students of Béla Bartók Music Art Institute at the University of Miskolc -, we’d rather bill his Magnificat, which is also an excellent work.

This year the Festival will be closed by the Virtuosos’ Gala, where Erika Miklósa will perform, too.

That evening young, talented musicians will play music, who may be known to the audience from the classical talent show of the Hungarian Television. I think this concert is closely linked to the concept of the Opera Festival: to open towards a wider audience and make more and more people love classical music. I regard this as my most important job, and the most important task of the Festival. The right to judge must be given back to the audience. Classical music will only be put back to the place it deserves, if not professionals decide in the first place, who is a good composer and which works are good, but the audience.

Balázs Csák


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