“The grand, gilded Hungarian State Opera House here is where Brahms once heard Mahler conduct Mozart,” writes Michael Cooper in Friday’s (10/26) New York Times. “These days, the house is also emerging as a flash point in Hungary’s culture wars. The opera company is in the midst of one of its biggest expansions ever, thanks to the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars by the increasingly autocratic right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban…. The company … canceled some performances of the musical ‘Billy Elliot’ after a conservative newspaper denounced the work as ‘gay propaganda’ and staged ‘Porgy and Bess’ with white singers…. This month, the State Opera and the Hungarian National Ballet are bringing 350 singers, dancers and musicians to New York to perform nearly two weeks of fully staged operas and ballets … The … visit comes as the Trump administration has been making overtures to Mr. Orban’s Hungary…. Classical music and dance … have played a big role in cultural diplomacy over the years. But they can stir tensions as well. During several recent visits to the United States, the Russian conductor Valery Gergiev has attracted protests by advocates for gay rights and Ukrainian autonomy.”

Posted October 29, 2018