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Vienna Burgtheater declines invitation to Budapest

September 19th, 2013

Magyar Nemzet carries a bitter comment on an open letter by the Vienna theatre director who declined an invitation from the Budapest National Theatre, saying that he did not intend to risk the “good name” of his theatre.

In February  Matthias Hartmann, the director of the Burgtheater, Vienna’s number one theatre, was one of a group of six left-wing Austrian artists who sent open letters to Zoltán Balog, the Hungarian Minister of Human Resources, criticising the government’s cultural policies and voicing their concern about artistic freedom being in danger in Hungary. He was then received by the minister, in the company of Attila Vidnyánszky, the newly appointed director of the Hungarian National Theatre who told him that he was mistaken in his belief that anti-Semitic discourse was permitted in Hungary or that the experimental theatres were being deprived of public funding. Subsequently, Vidnyánszky invited his theatre to an international theatre festival in Budapest early next year. Mr Hartmann declined to participate, arguing that Vidnyánszky and the Minister had repeatedly misrepresented the content of their discussions and he was not willing to help them whitewash the reputation of the cultural policies of the current Hungarian government.

In Magyar Nemzet (print version), Gábor Tölgyesi remarks that Hartmann has only met Vidnyánszky and the minister once, therefore his claim that they have often misinterpreted the content of their meetings makes no sense. The festival will be attended by the National Theatres of Bucharest, Warsaw, Novi Sad, Ljubljana and Oslo, as well as by the Moscow Art Theatre and the St Petersburg Aleksandriysky Theatre, he continues. He also recalls that Mr Hartmann criticised German President Joachim Gauck for decorating Mr Balogh for his service in promoting German-Hungarian friendship and human rights. Finally, Tölgyesi finds it absurd that the Vienna director should protest against Vidnyánszky’s appointment by the minister as director of the National Theatre after his predecessor’s mandate expired, as Hartmann’s predecessor was appointed by then Chancellor Viktor Klima, while he himself was chosen by a state secretary, without even consulting other candidates. (For details of the “culture wars” around the National Theatre see BudaPost November 2012 through May 2013)

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