About the program
Since the concept premiered at the Budapest Opera House in 1956, the Hungarian audience has often been able to hear the opera Bluebeard’s Castle, the pantomime The Miraculous Mandarin and the ballet The Wooden Prince, in one concert. Our concert will feature the latter two works, which were written for the
“It may sound strange,” said Bartók on the day of The Wooden Prince’s premiere, “but I must confess that the neglect of my opera Bluebeard’s Castle gave me the momentum to write this ballet. As you may know, that work of mine flopped at an opera contest… I love my first opera so much that when I received the ballet’s script from Béla Balázs, I immediately thought that, with its flamboyance, colourful, rich and varied stories, that ballet would make it possible to stage my two works on a single night.” The resounding success of the piece did indeed open the doors for Bluebeard’s Castle.
The Miraculous Mandarin faced a more difficult path, however, as its stage career began with a scandal. After Eugen Szenkar conducted the premiere in Cologne in 1926, the mayor of the city, Konrad Adenauer, banned any further performances of the work. Bartók learnt of Menyhért Lengyel’s story in the magazine Nyugat (West), and began to set it to music in 1918. “The music at the beginning will be diabolical, if I can get it right … horrific noise, clatter, crashing, honking, I will lead the listener from the hustle and bustle of a metropolis into the tramps’ hideout,” wrote the composer to his wife. With Lengyel’s pantomime-script, Bartók explored and set to music the fundamental questions of human existence, man and woman, passion and vulnerability, pleasure and pain.