D. György, soldier of not-really-so-noble origin winds up in the ruling class, but
this shocks the bourgeoisie. Title Character replaces his sweetheart and amigos, and
isn’t even nice to the peasants, which proves to be a poor decision. Through a classic
clothes-swapping self-sacrifice, D. György might be able to save his skin, but ends up
inviting shame. Audience reflects uncomfortably on his awful, tortuous death.
Exactly 500 years ago in Buda, György Dózsa, under whose leadership a peasant revolt would soon break out across Hungary, was elevated to the nobility. The legend surrounding the commander of the uprising would later inspire Ferenc Erkel, the Opera's first principal music director, to compose an opera on the subject. Our intention is to pay homage to both these legends with a concert-format performance of the work, with an audio recording of the evening to be released on CD.
Erkel composed Dózsa György for the old National Theatre, and the composer himself conducted the opera's world premiere on 6 April 1867. The work, however, was not successful: it was removed from the programme relatively quickly, after only six performances, despite Erkel and his two sons making a number of changes to the piece. In the year that also marked the compromise with Austria, the political rapprochement following the revolution of 1848-49, the captain of a peasant insurrection against the state was not considered topical thematic material. The opera languished for many years, until the 1950s, when proposals were made to return it to the programme, but both dramaturgical and ideological concerns made this era another unfortunate one for a story of the leader of insurgent peasants, and the plans were finally abandoned. Finally, later in the same decade, Hungarian Radio recorded several excerpts from the original score. It also made another recording in 1991, for which Amadé Németh and Sándor Ruitner extensively reworked the opera. Aside from these two recordings, however, no other audio material exists of the work. For this reason, the Hungarian State Opera considered it a matter of importance to record a concert-format performance as the latest release in its OperaTrezor (OperaVault) series.
In 1994, the opera enjoyed 21 performances with a double cast in a version revised by Géza Oberfrank and Dezső Mészöly. (This is the version currently being staged.) In 2004, the Hungarian Opera of Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) also included the piece in its programme. The Budapest audience, however, has not heard it since 2010, when it was performed at the Opera House on the occasion of the composer's 200th birthday. A critically annotated complete edition of the work is being prepared under the auspices of the Institute of Musicology, as a project headed by Katalin Szacsvay Kim.
Information courtesy of Márton Karczag