Nutcracker Festival 2023 – hits and charity performances in the OPERA's festive offer

Article cover picture

In view of the great interest, on 1 December 2023, starting at 11:00 a.m., the Hungarian National Ballet has scheduled an additional performance of The Nutcracker, making it the longest series of  Tchaikovsky's fairy-tale ballet, with 41 performances running between 24 November 2023 and 6 January 2024, at the Hungarian State Opera. While OPERA's traditional holiday productions attract full houses again this year, the Opera House also intends to pay attention to the needy with several charity events in cooperation with its partners.

Organized by the István Regőczi Foundation, which supports the orphans of the Covid-19 epidemic, more than 160 children will attend The Nutcracker rehearsal on 24 November, while for the matinée performance on 17 December, the International Children's Safety Service will bring almost a thousand disadvantaged children from all over the country and from beyond borders. This performance is one of the dearest Christmas gifts of the Safety Service and MBH Bank, which sponsors the event, as Tchaikovsky's Christmas ballet is an essential part of the holiday preparations. With the performance, each year the two organizations try to make Christmas more beautiful, richer, and a real experience for children.

In addition, OPERA also joins MTVA's charity campaign It's good to be good once again, which this year supports the Semmelweis University Foundation in establishing the Semmelweis Development Support Centre to follow the progress of children who were born prematurely or have congenital abnormalities. True to the traditions of the past years, the OPERA offers a nutcracker doll featured in last season's performances as a donation auctioned during a festive programme on 17 December 2023.

The 2015 The Nutcracker production with choreography by Wayne Eagling and Tamás Solymosi celebrates its 200th performance on 3 December 2023. It is only the Hungarian National Ballett, the nation's sole classical ballet company to present Tchaikovsky's work live in its entirety in Hungary, featuring costumes by Nóra Rományi and sets by Beáta Vavrinecz. The unprecedented success of the production is demonstrated by the fact that almost all tickets for the 41-performance series have been sold out entirely in advance. Princess Maria is danced by 11 ballerinas this year: principals Maria Beck, Tatiana Melnik, and Maria Yakovleva, soloists Lili Felméry and Ellina Pohodnih, grand sujet Miyu Takamori, and semi-soloist Elena Sharipova. A recent addition to the company, a former soloist of Boston Ballet, Soobin Lee, corps de ballet Ganna Muromtseva, who joined the Hungarian National Ballet from the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Ukraine a year ago, and newly-appointed grand sujet Yuki Wakabayashi make their debut in the role. The 9 Nutcracker Princes are principals Gergely Leblanc and Dmitry Timofeev, first soloist András Rónai, grand sujet Dumitru Taran, and semi-soloist Boris Zhurilov. Making ther debut in the role are soloist Louis Scrivener, who joined the company in 2020, after graduating the Royal Ballet School in London, grand sujet Motomi Kiyota, semi-soloist Valerio Palumbo, and corps de ballet Viachaslau Hnedchyk. The performances also feature the Hungarian National Ballet Institute. The Hungarian State Opera Orchestra and Children's Chorus are conducted by András Déri, Máté Hámori, Zsolt Jankó, Paul Marsovszky, Dániel Somogyi-Tóth, Kálmán Szennai, and Sámuel Csaba Tóth.

Puccini's opera La bohème is also an essential part of the Christmas period. The production, which deals with the daily lives of Parisian bohemians full of love and deprivation, has been performed over 900 times over 86 years now, staged by the legendary creators of the Golden Age of the Opera House. Kálmán Nádasdy's direction with sets by Gusztáv Oláh and costumes by Márk Tivadar, will be shown seven times between 23 December 2023 and 14 January 2024. Szabolcs Brickner is singing the role of Rodolfo for the first time at the OPERA, his partners on stage are  Polina Pasztircsák (Mimì), Azat Malik (Schaunard), Csaba Szegedi (Marcello), Marcell Bakonyi (Colline), and Zita Váradi (Musetta) , the OPERA Orchestra, Chorus (chorus director: Gábor Csiki) and Children's Chorus (chorus director: Nikolett Hajzer) are conducted by Gergely Madaras and Sámuel Csaba Tóth.

Since 2019, the Mozart version of Händel's oratorio Messiah is a permanent part of the Advent season. On 11 and 18 December, the OPERA will perform the choral work, which deals with the coming of the savior, the story of his suffering and resurrection, and is well-known through the Hallelujah movement, in a concert-like format, in Hungarian. The soloist roles are sung by Rita Rácz, Atala Schöck, István Horváth, and István Kovács, the OPERA Orchestra and Chorus are conducted by Gábor Hollerung.

A two-and-a-half-meter nutcracker doll and a three-and-a-half-meter tall Christmas tree also contribute to creating a festive atmosphere in the entrance hall of the Opera House, with more than 200 decorations provided by OPERA's strategic partner, Herendi Porcelain.

From 3 December 2023, the first Sunday of Advent, until 31 December 31, the small Christmas market will return in front of the Opera House, with hot drinks, cakes and Christmas-themed gifts from the OperaShop in two small wooden huts every day between 13:00 and 20:00 (10:00 - 13:00 on 24, 17:00 - 20:00 on 25 and 26 December). In front of the Opera House, a 10-meter Christmas tree, traditionally decorated by employees of the scenic workshop, awaits visitors as well as iconic figures from The Nutcracker, produced by the set workshops.

Photo by Edina Ligeti

More news