The last Saturday of January sees the premieres of once popular two Hungarian operas last seen a long time ago. In the Opera Stream series on 30 January 2021, new productions of Tante Simona by Ernst von Dohnányi and Le luthier de Crémone can be viewed online from 7:00 p.m.
Ernst von Dohnányi: Tante Simona
Ernst von (Ernő) Dohnányi is one of those Hungarian composers whose works are played much less frequently than they deserve to be. The Opera is striving to correct this situation: after our productions of The Tower of the Voivod and The Tenor, next up is our staging of Tante Simona. The comic opera takes places in Italy and follows the story of Aunt Simona, who was abandoned by her sweetheart long ago and, with her bitterness undiminished by the intervening years and now intent on protecting her niece, Beatrice, from the disappointments of love, attempts to shut out any and all men from her life – naturally, without success.
Despite the Italian setting, viewers are justified in perhaps feeling that it is a German work they are watching: instead of the unbridled mirth of Italian comic opera, this work exhibits the more restrained good cheer of a singspiel, with von Dohnányi clearly paying his respects to Wagner and Richard Strauss with the richly composed music. The opera premiered in Dresden in 1913, yet it took the Hungarian State Opera until 1933 to present this work, and now, after nearly 90 years, it is returning to the stage here as the brainchild of the young director Bence Varga, with sets by Anna Fekete, costumes by Nikolett Schütz, and a new Hungarian text by Attila Galambos.
The title role of this comic opera is performed by Lúcia Megyesi Schwartz, her partners on stage are Adrienn Miksch (Beatrice), Orsolya Sáfár (Giacinta), Donát Varga (Count Ghino), Antal Cseh (Count Florio) and Bence Pataki (Nuto, a housekeeper). The Hungarian State Opera Orchestra and Chorus (chorus master: Gábor Csiki) are conducted by renowned international guest conductor, a member of the Dohnányi dynasty, Oliver von Dohnányi.
Jenő Hubay: Le luthier de Crémone
The city of Cremona announces a competition to see who can craft a violin finer than any other. The stakes are high: aside from a golden necklace, the winner will also gain the hand in marriage of the beautiful daughter of the master craftsman Ferrari. This is the plot of Le luthier de Crémone (The Violin Maker of Crémone). Jenő Hubay was a major figure not only as a composer, but also as a violinist and as a teacher of the instrument. Dubbed the “Hungarian Paganini”, he was invited to perform in the concert halls of Paris from an early age. It was presumably during the years he spent in France that he selected François Coppée’s play of the same title, one of the most popular comedies of its era, as the subject of his opera. The catchy music – light and tuneful – and the famous slightly gloomy but heartfelt violin part remind one of both French elegance and operetta.
The piece takes viewers into an appealing world in which a love triangle is resolved through human decency and self-sacrifice. Premiered in Budapest in 1894, it is Hubay’s most popular opera. On special occasions, the composer himself would play its remarkable violin solo. The work received great acclaim both in Hungary and abroad, with runs in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and even New York. Since being made into a television drama in 1987, it has not been performed for more than 30 years. Staging it now will be the creative team also responsible for Tante Simona: director Bence Varga, set designer Anna Fekete, costume designer Nikolett Schütz. The production also features a new Hungarian text by Attila Galambos.