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Work of the Week – Peter Eötvös: Valuska

A debut work at the age of almost 80: The new opera Valuska is the first of Peter Eötvös' 13 operas that the Hungarian composer wrote in his native language. Eötvös celebrates his 80th birthday on 02 January 2024. To mark this occasion, the new work will be premiered on 02 December 2023 at the Hungarian State Opera Budapest. It will be conducted by Kálmán Szennai and staged by Bence Varga.

Together with his librettist Mari Mezei, Eötvös explored more than 40 stories and films and finally found his subject matter in the novel Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai. The book was published in 1989, the year the German Wall came down and the old Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe collapsed. The film The Werckmeister Harmonies by Hungarian director Béla Tarr (2000) is based on the same story as the opera Valuska.

Valuska by Peter Eötvös: The Melancholy of Resistance or The Werckmeister Harmonies

The inhabitants of a small town are horrified by the increasing signs of an impending catastrophe and the growing piles of garbage on the streets. The confusion is further exacerbated by the nightly arrival of a traveling circus with the world's largest stuffed giant whale and the presence of a growing crowd of strangers who wait in silence. The small circus troupe, which at first seems to consist only of the owner, who calls himself the "director", and his assistant, also includes a mysterious, disfigured dwarf who calls himself Prince.

At the center of the action is the innocent and well-meaning village idiot János Valuska (Valuschka), who delivers newspapers for the post office. Naively fascinated by the majestic order of the universe, he preaches to the apathetic workers who frequent the local pub about the incredible wonders he has seen. Valuska is captured during a manhunt. Mrs. Tünde frees him by declaring him a fool. The professor comes every day to visit Valuska in the mental hospital, only to find each time that his former helper refuses to say a word, having lost both his faith in the cosmic order and his belief in the magic of the world.

Valuska, the young man with the pure heart, becomes a victim of manipulative society in the shadow of a whale. (Peter Eötvös)

After five performances in Budapest, Valuska will be performed for the first time in Germany and in German at Theater Regensburg from 03 February 2024.


Peter Eötvös: Composer Profile  

Valuska: Work Details and Online Score   

Website Magyar Állami Operaház 

illustration: Hungarian State Opera Budapest


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