Ivan Fischer
Photo: Marco Borggreve

A new opera by Ivan Fisher will be performed for the first time in Budapest’s ‘Millenáris Teátrum’ next Monday, October 14. It fights the  increasing anti-semitism in Hungary. The concert will be entirely dedicated to compositions by Ivan Fischer, who says: « Please let me emphasize that I am not a modern composer, do not expect modern music. As a performer my head is full of all types of music. Once, I decided to put down what is inside. The musical language of this cavalcade is the blend, the mix in which we live, which attacks us from the radio, from the lift, from ring tones, from concert venues. « 

Performed works are a ‘Fanfár’, the orientally colored ‘Shudh Sarang Sextet’, the cantata ‘Spinoza-vertalingen’, two pieces for choir, ‘La Malinconia’ and ‘Zigeunerlied’, Fischer’s first opera ‘Tsuchigumo’ as well as a brand new opera, ‘The Red Heifer’.

This opera has been composed on a notorious 19th century incident –  the 1883 accusation in the Hungarian village of Tiszaeszlar that Jews had killed a Christian girl to use her blood for Passover bread. Some 15 Jews faced trial. They were acquitted, but the blood libel persisted. Fischer says: « After my friend Miklós Erdély had created his marvellous film entitled “Verzió” on the Tiszaeszlár blood libel affair in 1981, we planned that we would jointly make an opera version of the film. The plan fell through because Erdély passed away a few years later in 1986. I have been thinking incessantly about composing this opera for 25 years now. The Tiszaeszlár Affair becoming a present day hot political issue finally helped me. »

And Fischer to underline: « The same responses, stereotypes and petrified, unreasonable prejudices appear nowadays as if we were back in the Red Cow Inn in Nyíregyháza in 1883. Following in the footsteps of Gyula Krúdy, who wrote a beautiful book on this subject, I too do not endeavor to be objective.  There can be no objectivity in the blood libel case. The main topic of the opera is not the court case itself, but rather the ‘psychological mystery’ (Krúdy), how the conjecturers of the showcase trial won 13 year-old Móric Scharf over to be their crown witness.

Móric Scharf, who as a child had accused his father and his companions of murder, was interviewed 45 years later, in 1927. Scharf said he had been severely tortured and threatened and felt he had been used by the anti-Semitic county lords for their political purposes. After the verdict he moved abroad and returned to the Jewish religion. »

The opera lasts 50-55 minutes.

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