Conductor’s first opera tackles anti-Semitism in Hungary

Posted on: October 23, 2013

“Ivan Fischer is best known as a first-class conductor whose Budapest Festival Orchestra has entranced audiences worldwide. Last week, Mr. Fischer took on a new role—social critic—when the orchestra gave the premiere of an opera he had composed as a rebuke to what he and others see as growing tolerance for anti-Semitism in today’s Hungary,” writes Rachel Donadio in Monday’s (10/21) New York Times. “The Red Heifer is based on a blood libel from 1882 that divided the country much as the Dreyfus affair later did in France. [Fischer’s] ambitious composition uses both a full orchestra and a Gypsy band, with references to music from Klezmer to rap to Mozart.… ‘Culture shouldn’t be interested in day-to-day politics,’ said Mr. Fischer, who has also been the principal conductor of the Washington National Symphony Orchestra…. ‘But I think culture has a strong responsibility to find the essence, the real concealed truth which lies behind the day to day.’ …  Audience members debated [the opera’s] impact. ‘If 700 or 800 people see this opera, it will have no effect,’ said Josef Janos. A friend, Katalin Patkos, chimed in. ‘We shouldn’t be so pessimistic,’ she said. ‘It’s a contribution.’ ”

Posted October 23, 2013