Hunyadi László

Ferenc Erkel, Libretto by Béni Egressy based on Lőrinc Tóth's drama
Hungarian State Opera
Hungarian State Opera, Budapest

Listing details and ticket info...

The Cast of Hunyadi László Credit: Berecz Valter
The Cast of Hunyadi László Credit: Berecz Valter
The Cast of Hunyadi László Credit: Berecz Valter

The Hungarian State Opera house, which had had a major renovation front and back stage, re-opened in 2022 with Ferenc Erkel’s Hunyadi László, Hungary’s first national opera, famed and extremely popular in its own country, but little known outside it.

Artistic director Szilveszter Ókovács has reinstated the original production which had premièred in 1844. The score is a mixture of French grand, German romantic plus Hungarian folk music and dance. The conductor is Balázs Kocsár. Szabolcs Brickner is cast as László Hunyadi, the 15th century Hungarian nobleman, soldier and politician.

The epic drama is based on historical events. Ulric Cillei, uncle and regent to the pathetically weak King Laszlo V, plots to kill Hunyadi, the son of the great general, who defended the Hungarians from the Ottoman Turks and who should have been king.

Alerted of the plot by Rozgonyi, an army officer, Hunyadi and his followers kill Cillei before Cillei can kill him. King Laszlo vows not to take revenge; but he is easily manipulated by Miklós Gara, his ambitious chancellor, who wants his daughter, Mária, who is Hunyadi’s fiancée, to marry the king instead. He has the couple arrested at their engagement banquet and Hunyadi is beheaded. The gruesome execution takes four blows.

Szabolcs Brickner has his big moment when Hunyadi is fantasising about his fiancée. Erika Miklósa and he also have a fine duet. But it is his mother who foresees the tragedy to come and is helpless to save him, who dominates the stage from the moment she comes on in act 2. Klára Kolonits has regal presence and hits the high notes in her two great arias.

Dániel Pataky’s King László and András Palerdi’s Cillei come across as over-costumed pantomime villains. Gábor Bretz’s Miklós Gara is much more subtle and realistic; though it is an odd directorial decision to have him singing one of his arias in the aisles of the stalls whilst chucking sweets at members of the audience. Attila Erdős looks good casting for Rozgonyi, but the role is undeveloped and there is no opportunity for him to bring clarity to the character’s ambiguity.

Ókovács’s plodding production is very old-fashioned. Curtain-calls are taken at the end of each act. The lead singers are poorly directed. The members of the large chorus are not given anything to do, except come on, stand and deliver and go off. There are too many musical interludes, when nothing is happening on stage, interrupting rather than furthering the plot. The drama is expensively costumed and there is some fine singing but the spectacle fatally lacks urgency.

The Hungarian State Opera’s Hunyadi László can be watched free on the OperaVision channel.

Reviewer: Robert Tanitch

*Some links, including Amazon,,, ATG Tickets, LOVEtheatre, BTG Tickets, Ticketmaster, LW Theatres and QuayTickets, are affiliate links for which BTG may earn a small fee at no extra cost to the purchaser.

Are you sure?