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Interview with Szép Gyula, Director of the Hungarian Opera in Cluj-Napoca

Monday, 17 June 2024 , ora 10.38

The Hungarian Opera in Cluj-Napoca is set to present "La rondine" on Thursday, the 13th of June, as part of the Bucharest Opera Festival - All Puccini Edition. More details are shared by Szép Gyula, General Director of the Hungarian Opera, in an interview with our colleague Ioana Țintea.

Mr. SzépGyula, the artists from your institution return to the Bucharest Opera Festival for an edition dedicated to Giacomo Puccini's memory. With what thoughts do you rejoin the festival, and how would you describe past experiences?

We are very pleased that this festival has come into existence. It was missing from the cultural landscape of the country and the Central and Eastern European region. So, it is a very welcome addition. We have always aimed to contribute significantly to the festival's interesting palette by bringing highly valuable yet less performed works: at the first edition, Ravel's operas, and last year, the opera and ballet of Béla Bartók. This year, within the Puccini repertoire, we are presenting an interesting and again, little-performed title, "La rondine." For us, it was a good choice because the Hungarian composer Lehár Ferenc, who was a close friend of Puccini, was somewhat involved in its creation. He wanted to persuade Puccini to write an operetta. This work was commissioned by the Theater of Operetta in Vienna in 1913, but it did not become an operetta, even though the cast includes a prima donna and tenor, soubrette, and dancer... the distribution starts as if it wants to be an operetta, but it's neither an operetta nor an opera... something in between. And it wasn't even premiered in Vienna but in Monte Carlo.

So, on the Romanian lyrical stage, a rarely sung Puccini title. Can you give us more details about the production?

It has never been performed in Romania, as far as we know. We've heard from colleagues in Brașov that they plan to stage it in the near future. We mounted this production with our own resources because we received support from the Budapest Opera to stage this title. We invited former artistic director of the Budapest Opera, Mr. Anger Ferenc, as the director. He now lives in Berlin but returned to prepare for our performance at the Bucharest festival, where, as always, we come very well prepared. Our soloists include Pataki Adorján, a well-known tenor in Europe, and Covacinschi Yolanda as La Rondine... it's a large cast: BallaSándor, SzilágyiJános... I confidently believe it will be a revelation for the Bucharest audience, being an interesting opera that is neither a drama nor a comic opera, neither an operetta nor an opera. Yet, Puccini's music remains unmistakably Puccini.

Can you also share details about the most recent premiere presented to the Cluj audience, the rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar"? What has been the audience's reaction?

Our institution has ventured into rock music several times, primarily with Hungarian works written specifically for the Hungarian opera. We presented the musical "Elisabeta Báthory," known in literature and history as a fascinating lady. Then, "Sándor Mátyás," based on Jules Verne's novel. After 10 years of experience, our company has grown to be the most renowned in the musical and rock opera genre... staging "Jesus Christ Superstar" because the response and the performance itself are immensely powerful and intense. At least from how we feel, it has been a success!

Interview by Ioana Țintea
Translated by Marian-Cătălin Niculăescu,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year I
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu