Verdi bicentennial premiere at the Hungarian State Opera next Monday: STIFFELIO for the first time in Budapest! The production will be staged as a concert performance, conducted by Domonkos Héja.
In the 19th century, the latest foreign works often reached Budapest in a matter of months, but it was almost certain they would arrive within a couple of years. Nevertheless, as this example shows, there are occasions when even 162 years are not enough for a successful Verdi opera to be staged in Hungary. This is exactly the fate that befell Stiffelio, so it is in this jubilee year that the amorous tragedy of the poor Lutheran minister, first seen in the Trieste Teatro Grande in 1850, will appear in the Budapest Opera. Translated from French, the drama was set in Austria, where it attracted much attention from the censors. Further, it raised the thorny issue of the sanctity of marriage – the minister offers divorce to his adulterous wife – a topic not popular among the predominantly Catholic community. Besides all this, the opera is also interesting because of its ambiguous tone: while the wife’s father kills the lover, Stiffelio forgives Lina, and the story has a happy ending. Verdi composed the opera in a period of changing style and era: after the successes of the 1840s, he was preparing for his greatest popular operas: Rigoletto, La traviata and Il trovatore, which are also in the repertoire of the Opera House, were created only a couple of years after Stiffelio. Sprouting from the era of Nabucco and Macbeth, Stiffelio is a splendid work of art with deep portrayals of human characters.