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Row over far right theatre appointment amplified

November 1st, 2011

The controversy over the appointment of a far right-winger as director of a Budapest theatre shows no signs of abating. Commentators now ponder the possible consequences of a conflict generated by German conductor Christoph von Dohnányi, who cancelled a Budapest concert to express his indignation over the appointment.

Right wing papers suspect that Dohnányi was informed and encouraged to act in this way by his left-liberal leaning Hungarian colleagues. Gábor Borókai, editor-in-chief of Heti Válasz condemns the crowd which demonstrated in front of Új Színház (New Theatre) to protest against the appointment of extreme right wing actor György Dörner as director (See BudaPost, October  17). The crowd booed a pro-government TV showman, Sándor Fábry who told them the appointment will be revoked, but Dörner should be given a role as an actor in Új Színház. Someone in the crowd even called him a ‘fascist’, and Borókai thinks that the scene was a typical example of left-liberal intolerance. “Now they say we are moving towards fascism, because a theatre is in the hands of a Nazi.” Those words are being used irresponsibly and start losing their meaning – Borókai suggests, and hopes that they (left-liberals) “will not have cause to regret crying wolf,” (meaning that groundless accusations of Nazism may disarm society against a possibly real extreme right-wing threat in the future).

In Népszabadság, internationally renowned Hungarian conductor Zsolt Hamar passionately criticised Szilveszter Ókovács, the government commissioner of the Budapest State Opera,  who has said he may sue Christoph von Dohnányi for the damage he caused by calling off his concert in Budapest. “Hands off Dohnányi!” – Hamar exclaims, in the headline given to his open letter, and warns “politicians and their lackeys” that by confronting Dohnányi they risk an international artists’ boycott of Hungary.

Ókovács answers “I am a Hungarian, not a lackey”. He would consider himself a lackey, however, if he behaved unlike the Berlin Opera or the Saint Petersburg Kirov Ballet would behave if an artist failed to meet his or her obligations, by saying that in Germany there are neo-Nazi provocations or in Russia there are communist cells. “We will sue the great Dohnányi” – the commissioner declares, “because decisions entail certain consequences, and even he cannot be an exception. He has a signed contract”.

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