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Hungarian Ring

Just before Adam Fischer took over the Budapest Opera in 2006, he mounted a performance of Wagner's Ring cycle at the city's new Művészetek Palotája (Palace of Arts, pictured), on the banks of the Danube at the city's edge. As someone who knew Bayreuth, he wanted to recreate something like the experience in Budapest, but without the infamous disadvantages. Fischer has now directed two Ring festivals there, in 2007 and 2008, and plans another in June 2009. Martine D. Mergeay wrote a review of this year's cycle (Nouveau Bayreuth à Budapest ?, June 27) for La Libre Belgique (my translation):

A formidable immersion, musical, theatrical, and imaginative [...] and highly prized, too, judging by the size of the audience (everything was sold out) and its makeup: international -- groups of fans had come from the entire world -- and all generations, with a dress code to match, from shorts to tuxedo, and the price of seats ranging between 16 and 60 euros! With, at intermission, a gastronome's dinner at the restaurant or sandwiches and beer on the steps of the Palace, in the sun, facing the river. [...]

Many impressions stand out from these performances of the Ring, with many highs and a few lows. The Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, first of all, was in this music like a fish in water, bound in an organic way to its conductor, and taking risks with that are much greater than what is seen and heard here.
The singers in this year's performances included, notably, German soprano Evelyn Herlitzius, and most stunningly, German tenor Christian Franz; also Juha Uusitala, Walter Fink, Maati Salminen, and many others, as well as some promising young Hungarians. The house has about 1,200 seats. The singers wear concert dress but sing from memory and act, with no machinery or sets but effective lighting and projected images. I have always wanted to visit Budapest...

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