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The 'Liszt - 200' Festival in Cluj Napoca at an End
It is hard to understand why the superb oratorio, The Legend of Saint Elisabeth (Die Legende von der heiligen Elisabeth), by Franz Liszt, is so little known and why was it performed for the first time in its entirety in Romania only on Thursday night (October 27th, 2011), after almost 150 years since it was composed. The reason might be connected with the length of the work. Whatever it might be, the initiative of the Hungarian Opera and of conductor Jůzsef HorvŠth, the artistic director of the festival, to perform the oratorio for the first time in Romania, is commendable. The work was partially performed in 1879, during the second tour Liszt made in Transylvania. As it was to be expected, the piece captured the interest of the audience in Cluj, who turned up in quite a high number at the concert on October 27th.
The artists' performances met the audience's expectations, rising to the particular importance of the event. Under the conductor Jůzsef HorvŠth performed on stage the Hungarian Opera Orchestra, the Academic Radio Choir conducted by Dan Mihai Goia and the Junior VIP Children's Choir trained by Anca Mona Marias. The soloists were soprano Brigitta Kele as Elisabeth, mezzo-soprano Orsalya Veress, the basses Florin Estefan, Sandor Balla and Sandor Arpad. The public was mesmerized by the soloists' splendid voices, but also by the accuracy and homogeneity of the three ensembles.
The audience's opinions at the end of the performance
More impressions from the audience, in the opinions recorded at the end:
'I note with great joy that the opera tries and succeeds in keeping up; with tonight's concert I think it has secured itself a reputation, which I hope will reach also abroad. I especially liked the collaboration between the cultural institutions in Cluj - they have proven it is possible, this night was a living proof.'
'Superb. Extraordinary. I have not seen a show like this in a long time and I am happy I could attend it. The performance was above all expectation. Here's hoping that works like this will be performed again.' Laura Sabau, teacher.
'It was an extraordinary performance, very well directed, everyone was at their best. The hall seemed to be acoustically inadequate. Cluj deserves a 2000-seat hall with modern acoustics for events of this magnitude. The Festival, in its whole, was very well organised, with very good performances and exceptionally performers.' Lucian Tompa, artist
Talking about the Festival with the performers
With a clear, expressive and emotional voice, Brigitta Kele performed the title of Elisabeth, an artist known on the opera stages in Romania and Hungary. The soprano portrayed her character with sensitivity and conviction.
'It is an extraordinary piece and I love it. I let it enter my soul and mind. Indeed, the piece is very difficult, Wagnerian so, if I can make the comparison, but I believe it was worth all the effort. I am truly glad that fate decided that I should be the one to sing it tonight.'
The conductor of the Academic Radio Choir, Dan Mihai Goia, also talked to us at the of the event, about the atmosphere of the concert and about the collaboration with the artists from the Hungarian Opera from Cluj Napoca:
'It was a wonderful evening, with a first class audience, an audience who practically stood still from the first chord and for almost three hours listened passionately and with a hunger for music. We tried to rise to the importance of the event, to close the Liszt Festival in a very special way. We had the opportunity of working with a renowned conductor, with top of the class soloists and with an orchestra that particularly impressed me through its dedication, accuracy and commitment. The Radio Choir tried to give its best performance, by maintaining what we have worked on during rehearsals, the emotions, the multiple feelings experienced.
The fact that the audience have applauded us for minutes on end gives us great satisfaction and we hope to be able to make this type of collaborations in the future, because they keep us focused, they make us responsible and give us great satisfactions.'
We could not end our report without the conclusions of the one who made this premiere possible in Romania, conductor Jůzsef HorvŠth, the artistic director of the 'Liszt - 200' Festival in Cluj Napoca:
'I think it was a difficult concert, but, I also believe, that the result made the effort worthwhile. I hope that the audience and those who have listened to us on the radio took pleasure in this concert. Since 1879, when fragments of it were played, I think it was high time for the audience to hear this piece by Liszt. The festival was received with enthusiasm and joy by the audience in Cluj and beyond'.
Translated by Florina S„mulescu
MTTLC, Bucharest University