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On 11 February 2023, the Hungarian State Opera presents a Bartók double bill featuring two of his pieces that enjoyed their world premieres at the Budapest Opera House over a hundred years ago. The Wooden Prince is staged with a new choreography by László Velekei, whereas Bluebeard’s Castle can be seen in the 2018 production by the Danish star director Kasper Holten.

László Velekei, whose career as a dancer, choreographer and director has been intertwined with the Ballet Company of Győr for the past 25 years, is working with the company of the Hungarian National Ballet for the first time. In his interpretation, the tale of The Wooden Prince told by librettist Béla Balázs about the love between the Prince and the Princess, and the Fairy Witch who challenges it, is combined with a sensitive psychological depiction. It thus becomes a certain type of development story, a coming-of-age tale, with impressive sets by István Rózsa and spectacular costumes by Nóra Rományi. The production features Gergő Ármin Balázsi, Boris Zhurilov and Mikalai Radziush as the Prince, Lili Felméry, Lee Yourim and Ellina Pokhodnykh as the Princess, Jessica Carulla Leon, Yakovleva Maria, and Lea Földi as the Fairy Witch, whereas the Wooden Prince is performed by András Rónai, Yago Guerra and Kiyota Motomi.

In the second part of the programme, Kasper Holten’s centenary production of Bartók’s only opera Bluebeard’s Castle returns to the stage. The internationally acclaimed director drew inspiration for his performance from the Opera House itself, specifically from the set painting workshop that used to operate in the attic of the 5th floor until the restoration. Based on Béla Balázs's libretto rich in multifaceted symbols, Holten's interpretation of the relationship between Bluebeard and Judith shows the complex, dynamic relationship between a painter and his muse. In the castle reinterpreted as Bluebeard's studio, the doors and keys demanded by Judith also take on symbolic meanings. In this revival, Judith is sung by Szilvia Vörös, a company member of the Vienna State Opera, while Bluebeard is performed by two renowned singers, Gábor Bretz and András Palerdi (on alternate nights). Both one-acts feature the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra conducted by general music director Balázs Kocsár.

Photo by Valter Berecz