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January 1970

The Wives of Henry VIII

The court of Henry VIII, sultry with eroticism and filthy with scandal and betrayal. A venue for fraud and deceit, slander and valid accusations, legitimate and groundless lawsuits, and of great – and sometimes fatal – amusement. The unbridled and mortally dangerous monarch was „in his heart of hearts” a poet and a composer of music. In the mirror of his plans, decisions and choices appear five different women, the king’s happily married – or resting in eternal happiness – wives: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Howard. The programme features the people of the royal court as well as Henry VIII’s own musical compositions and poems, masterworks by the poets attached to the courts, excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays, as well as selections from Romantic operas and contemporary music.

Der Schauspieldirektor

The singers are trampling over each other for positions in the company and attempting to squeeze as much cash as they can out of the director, who is (naturally) in a financial pickle and wondering what to perform at the theatre: “Put your hand on your heart: is it not true that the worst pieces bring us the most money, and masterpieces leave the auditorium empty?” A “patron” of Madame Silberklang promises to furnish the director with funds if he signs his favourite singer. The ladies indulge in a “singing competition”, with each of them delivering a bravura aria to show off their vocal virtuosity, and while both sing about serious subjects, each attempts to “out-sing” their rival. Then, in a trio, they hysterically try to surpass each other’s coloratura’s in order to prove which of them is the prima donna.

The Telephone

Before leaving on a journey, Ben is paying a visit to Lucy, the object of his affection, and he's secretly got a big plan in the works: he's going to ask for the girl's hand in marriage. Whenever he gets to the big moment, however, the telephone rings, leading to a lengthy session of chattering on the part of his beloved. Out of desperation, Ben even attempts to sever the telephone cord, but in the end still doesn't manage to ask the momentous question: he has to leave in order to catch his train. Shortly after he departs, Lucy's telephone rings again. It's Ben. By calling from a telephone booth, he's finally able to ask Lucy to marry him, and she happily agrees. A love duet ensues – via telephone.

Program and cast

The Wives of Henry VIII

Henry VIII: Pallag Márton
Henry's wives: Eszter Zavaros
Coutrier: Balázs Csémy


Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario)

Conductor: Sámuel Csaba Tóth
Hans Buff, an impresario: Zoltán Bátki Fazekas
Brigitte Herz, his wife: Bernáth Éva Orsolya Hajnalka Rőser
Selim Hekeri, a plastics mogul

Julia Silberklang, an amateur primadonna: Zita Szemere Lilla Horti
Johann Vogelsang, a tenor: József Mukk Tibor Szappanos


The Telephone

Conductor: Sámuel Csaba Tóth
Lucy: Orsolya Sáfár Diána Kiss
Ben: Attila Erdős Zsolt Haja
The telephone: Kóbor Demeter

Erkel Theatre

Opened in 1911 originally, the Erkel Theatre is Hungary’s largest theatre building. Its history is intertwined with the golden age of Hungarian opera performance, with such luminaries as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Éva Marton and Grace Bumbry all having graced the stage of a building whose acoustics are considered the stuff of opera legend.

After being shuttered up for more than five years with its fate in doubt following closure in 2007, the Hungarian government last year provided 1.7 billion forints in grants for the theatre’s renewal, allowing the Hungarian State Opera to renovate the Erkel Theatre to a standard suitable for holding performances.

Much of the refurbishments took place behind the scenes, with soloist and shared dressing rooms and common areas refitted and expanded. In addition, the stage’s technical equipment has undergone significant modernisation, while the building’s service systems (water, plumbing, heating and ventilation) have also been brought up to date.

Audiences will now step into an auditorium with a completely new look, while every effort was made to ensure that the building's fantastic acoustic properties remained unchanged. A factor that will greatly increase comfort is the modern ventilation system installed in the seating area. Although the number of seats has been reduced from 1,935 to 1,819 by refitting the rows of seats for more comfort, the theatre nevertheless retains its rank as the highest capacity theatre in Hungary – and in Eastern Central Europe.

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