Victor Orban attends triumphant Kurtag premiere at La Scala

Victor Orban attends triumphant Kurtag premiere at La Scala


norman lebrecht

November 16, 2018

The controversial Hungarian prime minister was not going to miss the world premiere of the only opera by his country’s senior composer.

Fin de Partie by György Kurtag opened last night to thunderous applause at La Scala.

Sovrintendente Alexander Pereira called it ‘La Scala’s greatest premiere for half a century’.

We’ll check back later with reviews.

Read Fiona Maddocks in the Observer.

And Guy Damann in the TLS.



  • Caravaggio says:

    ‘La Scala’s greatest premiere for half a century’
    Was this a Trump tweet?

  • Novagerio says:

    I thought it was Puccini’s Turandot with Luciano Berio’s ending from 2008 that was the latest big sensation…
    Then there were a couple of Stockhausen’s Week Days of Light in the 80’s, and Luca Francesconi’s “Quartett” only a few years ago.
    Maybe they were not exactly “Sensations” in a public sense, but I wonder if Pereira got slightly carried away…

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Every Super Bowl is the game of the Century, and every World Championship fight is the fight of the Century. Mr Pereira is very modest – this is the greatest première of the latest ½ Century only…

  • Sue Grabbitandrun says:

    Now being elected by voters in a free ballot makes you ‘controversial’.

    What a wicked thing democracy is, eh?

  • John Borstlap says:

    Orban & Kurtag: there is more of a relationship between the two than meets the ear.

    • Jack says:

      I just knew Johnnie was going to chime in.

      • jaypee says:

        Funnily, I predicted that Johnnie would send his usual drivel but a higher authority has censored me.
        Obviously, Johnnie’s repetitive and predictable comments are good for this blog.

      • jaypee says:

        And, btw, why are Borstlap’s stupid comments on Kurtag and Orban acceptable and not mine on him?
        His are offensive, cheaply provocative and, to be honest, quite moronic. To associate a 90-year old composer with a fascist is despicable. And Borstlap’s comment should ALSO have been censored.
        Care to tell me what this comment brings? How constructive it is? Or does Mr. Lebrecht like Borstlap because he’s good click-bait material?

        If you want to maintain a standard in your forums, then your rules should apply to everyone. And trolls -and, by trolls I mean people who are only there to annoy, like Borstlap- should be banned. Unless you think that reading for the 1000th time that “Boulez is bad” or “all contemporary music except mine is bad” bring something meaningful to the conversation.

        • John Borstlap says:

          Talking about ‘something meaningful’…… it would be too easy to drive a little pin into this smoking, purple balloon of inflated ignorance and have the sound produced it obviously deserves, but let’s be generous & touch, for instruction’s sake, upon a few misconceptions in this little angry rant, not because it is so meaningful in itself, but because it reflects something of ‘received wisdom’ which still circulates through music life, in spite of its vacuousness and lack of argument.

          Kurtag is not ‘fascist’, but his work is a sad product of the era which produced not only the Holocaust, but also the anti-humanism of early postwar modernism, which led to the establishment of a network of vested interests entirely independent of one of the important parties of the performance culture of classical music: its audiences. New music became an academic occupation, and the traditional repertoire turned into a museum culture, disconnected from the present. People like Kurtag wept over that situation and its causes, and offered nothing to relieve its burden, let alone something that could look like a solution. His work is therefore a product of the same misery that resulted from fascism, but not only fascism: also new waves of industrialization and materialist world views, and destructive cold war politics. And in doing so, he merely repeats an exhausted musical idiom: that of Schoenberg and Berg, which can only be done effectively once, not repeatedly, because it is a phenomenon of extremism, not normality.

          All this has been clearly described in a couple of notes, which – of course – lazy and angry people never read or understand.

          Therefore an occasion like this Kurtag opera is, because of its establishment nature (La Scala!), a good point of reflection – communal celebration of death and destruction and mourning in absurdist context, being lauded as something really fantastic, unintentionally says a lot about our times and especially about the state of classical music in our times. I don’t think celebration of death and hopelessness and absurdity offers anything worthwhile. It is like Lachenmann’s fanatic repetition of ‘Stunde Null’ – the attempt to freeze the absolute civilizational zero moment at 1945 into eternity, so: ‘stopping history’, and thereby making a nice living out of the misery pruduction. I think it is a perverse sort of hypocrisy and, strangely enough, decadence: a parasitic, exploitative indulgenge in moralistic mourning half a century after the event. For how long still to go? The misery is being transferred again and again to next generations through the established networks, in education and festivals.

          • Sue Sonata Form says:

            I don’t want to inhabit a world which doesn’t permit people to watch the kind of theatre they want, listen to the music of their choice, dictate who they can employ and establish what a mandatory skin colour should be; whether they should be paid to the measure of an inch the same as the person sitting next to them; maintain diversity quotas; threaten the opposite sex when they don’t conform to the ‘standards’ somebody else has set. On and on it goes. That’s why I’m furiously trying to get away from identitarian fascism, to that desert island which enjoys real freedoms people once died for all of us to have – and which have been squandered in a frightening heartbeat by those who act from the belief they’re doing it in our best interests. Yeah, well that’s what the Bolsheviks said.

        • Quintus Beckmesser says:

          Orban is certainly not a Fascist. He had the idea for the Terror House museum in Budapest, a testimony of the rule of terror under the Arrow Cross and the Communists. He instigated a National Holocaust Day, made teaching about the Holocaust obligatory in schools and introduced a law making Holocaust denial a crime. Some Fascist!

    • jaypee says:

      By associating Kurtag with this fascist, you reached a new low, Borstlap. I didn’t think it was possible but you made it. Unfortunately for you, it reveals more about you than you’d wished.

    • Michael Endres says:

      Not a good comment. You care to elaborate ?

      • John Borstlap says:

        In different ways, both are a product of anti-humanist thinking, with its roots in the rejection of the European civilizational idea. Orban picks-up the narrow-minded, nationalist idea of early 20C and Kurtag weeps over the loss of civilization tout court. Both reject the positive sides of the European idea, in which they don’t believe, and react in extremes but they are two sides of the same coin. Given Hungary’s history, that is understandable, but it does not produce anything viable. The enthusiasm about nihilism (this opera production) reveals how happy people feel when they see their own emptiness celebrated in an establishment context, which probably offers them something like redemption.

  • Jonathan Dunsby says:

    The press said “Kurtag himself couldn’t make the debut and listened to the performance live at home in Budapest with his wife and collaborator, Marta.”

    For a long time there were rumours of Boulez writing a Beckett opera for La Scala, so it’s good that somebody went and did exactly that

  • Dennis says:

    Orban is the finest leader in Europe today. One the leftist milquetoasts who run the EU would do well to listen to and emulate.

    • MacroV says:

      Not going to debate that, other than to point out that Orban is happy to take EU money while refusing to abide by EU rules/norms. i.e. wants all the benefits of EU members and none of the costs.

      • Saxon Broken says:

        Which “norms” doesn’t he want?

        Many people argue that he should take “his quota” of immigrants that Merkel let into the EU. BUT, that isn’t EU policy, it was never agreed by any EU council. Hungary, whatever we might think of the decision, is well within its rights to decline to take them.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    “The controversial Hungarian prime minister”? Only controversial from those on the Left who see everybody who doesn’t share their extreme politics as either ‘fascist’ or ‘alt right’. Move a scintilla way from the Left and these are the monikers for you. People are tired of name-calling which substitutes for political argument. And you need to know the post-war history of Hungary before you can cast aspersion on the PM of that country.

    I have created my own term to describe the modern political left and it nicely melds with the terms they’ve used here and elsewhere to destroy Orban – so you could say it’s one of their very own projections: Identitarian Fascism. Watch out if you don’t buy into it; a social gulag awaits.