The text and musical material for the concert were created using both the original version of the work and the 1939 revi
In 1844, following on the heels of his triumph in the competition to set Ferenc Kölcsey's Himnusz – today the national anthem of Hungary – to music, Ferenc Erkel set about looking at the possibilities for using József Katona's much-attacked drama Bánk bán as the subject for an opera. History made the period of composition a lengthy one: first came the Hungarian War of Independence of 1848/49, and censorship by the dictatorship that followed meant that the audience would have to wait until 9 March 1861 before the work could be performed in its entirety at Pest's National Theatre.
Visiting the Ukrainian border region during the First Carpathian Homeland Tour, we could really only spend time in Ungvár (Uzhorod) – and we have wonderful memories of the two performances there with the audiences totalling 3000 in number – and not much in Beregszász (Berehove). However, we did visit this beautiful small town and found there an open-air arena that could house an audience of 3000 in a nice, hilly location. Its conditions are not too heartening, but with support from Hungary and in line with the intentions of the town's ethnic Hungarian leadership, we saw that it could be renovated. After replacing some wooden boards, painting, fixing the lighting and cutting the grass, this site will be ready for use as a regular performance venue soon. The financial backing is being provided by its sister city, Budapest's District 9 (Ferencváros), and the Ministry of Human Capacities. The Opera and the National Theatre are both undertaking to visit Beregszász once a year to provide some cultural gifts from the homeland to those who have been maintaining themselves and their Hungarian identity under harsher and poorer conditions than anywhere else for a long time.
As a result of, or in spite of, the high-level additions and revisions, the remarkable aspect of this concert performance of the ever-acclaimed Bánk bán at the Beregszász (Berehove) Arena is the fact that the text and musical material were created using both the work's original version and the 1939 revision – the one best know to the wider audience – credited to Kálmán Nádasdy. The storyline thus most closely mirrors the thinking of original playwright József Katona, without forcing us to dispense with the now-timeless grand aria “Hazám, hazám” (“My homeland, my homeland”).