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Kálmán Countess Maritza
Sadler's Wells London 12 June 2004

Zsuzsa Kalocsai (Countess Maritza) Daniel Vadasz (Tassilo) Mara Kékkovács (Lisa) Károly Peller (István) and Tamás Földes (Populescu) Budapest Operetta Theatre/László Makláry (Conductor)

A late and brief report of a remarkable touring show, Budapest Operetta Theatre brought to London by Raymond Gubbay. Countess Maritza is perhaps Hungary's national opera, equivalent to The Bartered Bride, which I saw in Prague in a charmingly old fashioned ancient, tatty production, which had reached performances numbered in the hundreds. Emmerich Kálmán's best hit dates from the 1920s and was a favourite of my parents.

What was unexpected was the lavishness of the settings (all transported in lorries, no expense spared). The stars and large chorus were good looking, their costumes gorgeous. The singing was good-enough to fine, but allowances should be made for the physical demands made upon the cast, who had to act, sing, dance and accomplish remarkable athletic and acrobatic feats, all of which they did with aplomb.

The story is a lot of nonsense about frivolous Society, with a Baron, a Count & a Countess, with disguise, misunderstanding, reconciliation and happy ending, all to lovely tunes. The large orchestra gave sumptuous backing to the stage goings on, and the tunes are lovely, a few of them still familiar. Without understanding a word the Hungarian language was a pleasure to hear, and there were surtitles of a sort.....

The theatre was full for a Saturday matinee, with Hungarian being spoken all round us. A happy afternoon, one not to be denigrated as a lesser artform than opera! There were two casts; see Geoffrey Norris in Arts Telegraph ( - - pure joy - - an evening out that brings a glow to the heart, a tear to the eye and a lift to the spirits - - a show of terrific exuberance and panache) also Kevin Catchpole in The British Theatre Guide.

There is no DVD, and I have been unable to locate the distributor of a video (in German) which I was assured is excellent (Unitel/1973/Orf/Zdf - Beta Film/Taurus Video).

Peter Grahame Woolf

© Peter Grahame Woolf