Based on an idea of Szilveszter Ókovács, the story of the fourth wise man is told by the Advent séance Artaban by Attila Pacsay to be premiered on 9 December 2023 at the Eiffel Art Studios of the Hungarian State Opera. The audience can enjoy the one-hour surround sound meditative performance, which also affects other senses, in the dark, in loungers, wearing sleep masks.
American writer, diplomat, and Presbyterian clergyman Henry van Dyke Jr. published his influential Christmas story entitled The Other Wise Man. The protagonist of short novel sets off from Persia to worship the newborn king in Bethlehem, similarly to the biblical magi. He carries precious stones as a gift, but at the end of his arduous journey he arrives at the cross only and his gifts run out in the meantime. However, through his good deeds on the way, he experiences the teachings of Christ unwittingly.
The story has been adapted to stage, film, and even an opera in the English-speaking world in recent decades. According to the ideas of Szilveszter Ókovács, the Hungarian State Opera production is based on a new concept. The general director, who is also the author of the lyrics and the director of the play, imagined a performance in the form of an audio drama to be listened to in the dark during the Advent waiting for the light: the audience listens to the uplifting story while sitting in loungers placed in a circle with sleep masks over their eyes, while the production also attempts to affect other senses.
Initially, György Selmeczi was commissioned to compose it, but the inspired work submitted by the Kossuth and Erkel Prize-recipient composer calls for a completely staged performance. Therefore, the OPERA has decided to present it in a traditional setting in one of the upcoming seasons. Along the lines of the original concept, Attila Pacsay, the composer of several Hungarian films, including the animated short film Maestro, nominated for an Oscar in 2005, and the recently released biographical drama Semmelweis, wrote the meditative music for the 2023 premiere. The production uses the 44-speaker Dolby Atmos surround sound system of the Eiffel Art Studios with a recording by the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra, but at the same time, concertmaster Alexandre Dimcevski and clarinetist Péter Csongár perform live. The musical director of the performances is the versatile conductor Gergely Dubóczky, who makes his debut at the Eiffel Art Studios with the production. The libretto was written by artistic director András Almási-Tóth, the spoken parts are performed by Zoltán Rátóti, while the vocal parts are sung by Gabriella Létay Kiss, Kinga Kriszta, István Kovács, Péter Fried, Lóránt Najbauer and Máté Fülep, in two casts. The consultant for the performance is pianist Tamás Érdi.
Photo by Valter Berecz