On one of his visits to Budapest, Johann Strauss, Jr. formed an acquaintanceship with the Hungarian writer Mór Jókai. The fruit of their association turned out to be one of the “Waltz King’s” finest operettas: Der Zigeunerbaron, or The Gypsy Baron, which was based on Jókai’s novella, itself inspired by a true story, and which came into being with active collaboration on the part of the author. The libretto was written by Budapest-born Ignaz Schnitzer, who later published the most comprehensive German-language edition of the poems of national poet Sándor Petőfi. It is no coincidence, then, that if we translate the original German verses of Die Zigeunerbaron into Hungarian, hints of Petőfi’s works appear in many places.
A year and a half later, on Strauss’s 60th birthday on 24 October 1885, the Theater an der Wien performed the world premiere of the grand operetta; Emperor Francis Joseph watched the entire work, even though he usually left theatre performances during the first intermission (for example at the inauguration night of the Opera House in Pest in 1884). 11 years after the great success of Die Fledermaus, the composer conquered Vienna again, and then the whole world: Der Zigeunerbaron turned out to be a huge success. One of the work’s virtues is that its music lends itself to the opera stage, with the sounds of the Hungarian csárdás, Gypsy music, the Viennese waltz and weightier melodies all rubbing along together marvellously.
And what is a bald pig dealer doing in an operetta? And who is the heir to the pasha of Temesvár? And how will the son of a country gentleman become the baron of the Gypsies? All will be made clear in this production by Miklós Szinetár at the Erkel Theatre, the venue of many successful performances of this work in the past decades.
Premiere: 24 March 2017, 6 p.m. | Erkel Theatre
Further dates: 25, 26, 30, 31 March & 1, 2 April 2017