Commedia tragica in twelve tableaux, one act, in Hungarian, with Hungarian and English surtitles
There is about to be a major moment in Hungarian music history: in the new season, the OPERA will present the first opera written in Hungarian by Péter Eötvös, celebrating the 80th birthday of the internationally renowned composer in January 2024. The work is a musical theatre adaptation of László Krasznahorkai's novel The Melancholy of Resistance. The story may already be familiar from the film Werckmeister Harmonies, but, of course, the composer approaches the topic from a different angle compared to the director of the film, Béla Tarr. “Valuska, a young man with a pure heart, becomes a victim of a manipulative society in the shadow of a stuffed whale”, says Péter Eötvös about his thirteenth opera, which was commissioned by the OPERA and whose predecessors have been performed all over the world. Many of them have already been seen by Hungarian audiences. His works Three Sisters and Love and Other Demons have previously been staged at the Opera House. Valuska is directed by Bence Varga.
Premiere: Dec. 2, 2023
The inhabitants of a small town are terrified by the increasing number of omens of imminent disaster and the growing piles of uncollected rubbish on the streets. Their confusion is deepened by the late-night arrival of a travelling circus boasting the world’s largest taxidermied giant whale that attracts an expanding crowd from nearby villages. They are waiting in silence. The two-member troupe consisting of the owner, the self-styled “Director” and his assistant harbour a mysterious and deformed monster called “The Prince”.
Caught in the middle of events is the innocent and well-meaning half-wit János Valuska, who delivers newspapers for the post office. Naively fascinated by the majestic order of the universe, he enthusiastically relates its incredible wonders to the congregation of impassive workers frequenting the local pub.
Valuska takes lunch to the Professor, a retired headmaster, every day and runs other errands for the extravagant recluse with tender care and touching delicacy. In return, the Professor takes Valuska into his confidence and offers him friendship.
Tünde, the mayor of the city and the Professor’s estranged wife throws herself into organising her movement “A Tidy Yard, An Orderly House”. To increase her influence, she extends an invitation to the circus as well. Its star, the demonic dwarf Prince rouses the disgruntled and barbaric mob waiting for the order for destruction with growing impatience, ready to jump.
The mayhem begins with relentless acts of looting, arson, and murder. During this pointless and ruthless destruction, Valuska is also swept up in the crowd and becomes an unwitting member of the violent throng.
Eventually, the chaos is ended by the military, but the restoration of order is followed by a new and more sophisticated form of terror: the town comes under the control of a deceitful political regime led by Tünde.
When Valuska is captured in a manhunt, he is only saved by Tünde coming to his defence, declaring him a lunatic. Every day, the Professor visits Valuska in the mental asylum he has been committed to only to find his former helper refusing to utter a single word, having lost both the faith in the cosmic order that sustained him and his belief in the magic of the world.