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article imageHungary in cultural diplomacy push with first US opera tour

By AFP     Mar 14, 2018 in Entertainment

Hungary on Wednesday launched a cultural diplomacy push in New York with its prolific state-run opera planning a full two weeks of music and ballet.

The Hungarian State Opera and Hungarian National Ballet will make their US debut by sending 350 musicians and dancers to New York with support from Prime Minister Viktor Orban's right-wing government.

The October 30-November 11 performances at Lincoln Center will highlight Hungarian works including "Bank Ban," a signature opera of national anthem composer Ferenc Erkel, and "Bluebeard's Castle," the only opera of early 20th-century giant Bela Bartok.

The company will also perform the more recent "Mario and the Magician," based on the Thomas Mann novella, and "Swan Lake" in the version of late Dutch choreographer Rudi van Dantzig.

"We never had in the history of Hungarian culture anything that is this long, this big, mobilizes this much (personnel) and has a budget like this," Ferenc Kumin, Hungary's consul general in New York, told a news conference.

Szilveszter Okovacs, general director of the Hungarian State Opera, said that the government agreed to some $3 million to support the performances in New York.

The Hungarian State Opera, whose landmark building in Budapest is under renovation, has been touring widely internationally including a 19-city tour of Japan last year.

The state opera is among the world's most productive, with Okovacs putting its number of performances at more than 400 per year.

Orban has cast himself as a defender of Christian values, claiming that an influx of Muslims and Africans poses a threat to European culture.

The Hungarian State Opera raised eyebrows earlier this year by staging a predominantly white "Porgy and Bess," which composer George Gershwin intended to be played by an African American cast.

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