The last time we heard that one of the best tenors would sing in Budapest, we rushed to hear him. It was back in March 2008, the tenor was Roberto Alagna and the concert took place in MUPA, in front of a highly enthusiastic audience. It was a huge success, which also showed at the signing event afterwards.P1050329

So we have been waiting for anything similar to happen again in Budapest. Circumstances are excellent in the modern concert hall, audiences are among the most savvy  and are always eager to hear and cheer the best.

We find it a bit saddening that up till now, no similar events have taken place. However, this is changing rapidly as Placido Domingo performed in the Budapest Opera House this past February. It was not his concert, but the fact that he appeared in Budapest nearly after 30 years of his previous performance signalled a welcome change of direction. Somebody must have been heartened by the event and taken steps. According to fresh news, “The famous Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo is giving a free concert on August 10 at 8pm outside the St. Stephen’s Basilica, in Budapest.” Read more about this here. Great news. And it will happen smack in the middle of the tourist season and will prove a huge success for sure. Only thing one may not be sure of is proper acoustics and the program, which does not seem to include opera arias. But perhaps this is not the right place.

The real huge event will take place on 20 January 2017. José Carreras will have just turned 70 by that time and will have been touring the world’s important stages with his last concert tour, called ‘A Life in Music‘. Opera lovers the world over can listen to this wonderful voice in concert one more time, then another member of the “three great tenors” is retiring, fortunately not the way the first one left us.

Although he is reported to have said he was happy to sing in that special Arena, we are wondering about the concert hall: the Arena he referred to is the relatively new Papp László Budapest Sportarena, a venue for sports events, pop and rock concerts, befitting André Rieu (who performed there two months ago) or the Red Hot Chili Peppers (performing there on 2nd September) (for those interested in similar up-coming events here is a link with programmes).

Anyway, if such a singer comes to Budapest, and certainly for the last time, the largest possible space should be provided, organizers must have thought. The Arena can accommodate 12500 people, no other venue can have such a large audience. As the concert takes place in January, no open stadium would be suitable, though we are sure his voice would fill any place.

Those people who would like to arrive in Hungary specifically for this concert can look for hotels in the area here and find some more information about the venue. More programmes of the Arena can be found in Dutch here, a site which also shows ticket prices together with the possibility to book tickets. The Hungarian site, where it is also possible to book tickets, can be accessed here, with prices in HUF. Perhaps surprisingly, most of the tickets are still available, including those closest to the stage. Well, not really for the pocket of the average Hungarian opera enthusiast perhaps. But then again, the cheapest tickets are around €40, that should be affordable for such a sensational performance. Wish you can also go and hopefully reflect on the event next year.

by P.S. and S.Z.J.

A few days ago a leading Hungarian portal published a blog post with videos in which several young adults from outside Hungary show and tell their audiences why they love Budapest. The videos are excellent as they are but are completely one-sided for such a collection: they fail to bring in the view-points of any older or younger generations than those in their twenties (reminds me and my Hungarian generation of the well-known, though very old song by Poór Péter, “Nem csak a húszéveseké a világ …”) and they fail to mention one of the most important reasons why absolutely anybody should really love Budapest: the choice of music.11834406_37e3a132591d59a167663c43f933034b_wmEven though the city is capable of providing such weather at any time, like right now, it has been one outstanding place for music lovers since back in the 19th century but what it offers in the last decades is almost as unique as the music and entertainment in Paris back then or post-WWI Berlin. I’ve enjoyed various genres available in Budapest for decades now and I’m still amazed by the possibilities emerging all the time. And classical music is only one aspect to it so let me introduce two recent discoveries of mine that you may love.

If one has enough of the declining quality of the Budapest Opera (despite the really outstanding performances of Hungarian opera singers – around the world) or of the well-established classic repertoire, the Armel Festival, beginning at the end of June, could be a welcome change with its modern offer and various foreign companies taking to the stage. The prices vary between about €20 and 30 so that can’t be an obstacle. The festival is also staging a competition at the same time and from their archives, it seems the project is an international one with a past and a future in various other cities around Europe. It’s a real pity most pages of their web-site are still under construction.

An even more interesting discovery could be a venue on the Buda side, the so-called “Kobuci kert“. A beautiful, though not very big garden in the heart of the city, just a couple of streets away from Margaret island seems to have become a major focus point of world-music genres, which include Gypsy music from various countries, special Balkan feelings, outstanding jazz music, folk music and dancing events (the famous “Táncház”). The list of performers includes, among others, Dresch Mihály on May 30 (hurry up to get tickets, folks!), Snétberger Ferenc on 31st (ditto!), Ferenci Gyögy on June 8 and Taraf de Haiduks on June 29. There’s even a community do for watching the UEFA Championships Final on 28th May. And the prices? The Madrid match is free, otherwise even an average Hungarian (whatever that means) can fork out 800 Ft (€2.5) on-line or 1200 Ft (less than €4) at the venue for such world-class musicians as above. A real competitor to the well-established Fonó in South-Buda, which you may already be familiar with, but which is also worth every penny for its programmes. Here is one of my videos I made at a Dresch concert in Szentendre back in 2008, where he played a less than usual instrument:

or another one with something more main-stream (where he played with Namyslowski in Budapest):

If you like these or would like to see more of him, you can go on to more of my recordings on youtube, or simply visit this coming new concert in six day’s time.

I wish you very pleasant summer experiences in Budapest. If you have enjoyed any of the concerts mentioned, please don’t hesitate to come back here to report.

by P.S.

I’ve just received information about a number of very worthy concerts in Budapest, Hungary, but I have to admit it was too late in the first case: tickets to the concert of the Bogányi family and the New Budapest Chamber Orchestra at the Budapest Academy of Music on 15th May have already been sold out. A great pity that we have to miss such a rare concert, where five siblings perform on different instruments in the same concert, among them perhaps the best pianist of the younger generation of Hungarian pianists, Bogányi Gergely. I wouldn’t really care about the programme comprising Purcell, Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Puccini, Vivaldi and Weber, but it would still be a very special evening.

To commemorate a concert Beethoven himself gave in Buda on 7th May, 1900, a month after the premiere of his first symphony, a small series of concerts are in the first week of May. The world-famous pianist, Malcom Bilson gives a recital in the great hall of the Hungarian Academy in the Castle on 5th May, performing pieces by Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin.

On Saturday, 7th May, the popular Hungarian pianist, Vásáry Tamás performs sonatas by Beethoven (Pathetique, Mondschein, Les adieux and Appassionata), then on Sunday, 8th May, Beethoven piano concertos can be heard in the performance of musicians who won this year’s cadenza-competition. On program are the first two concertos, the Rondo for Piano and Orchestra in B-flat major, WoO 6, and the rare Concerto composed in his youth in B-flat major, WoO 4.

I’m not aware whether tickets are still available for any of these three concerts but they certainly are worth a try.

The last concert is still available, though I’m not quite sure if it should be labelled as opera or concert: Verdi’s Othello is performed at the Margit-szigeti Open-air Stage in Budapest on 29th and 31st July with a single singer named. But that is Rost Andrea, the best Hungarian soprano still really active among the best ones. As no other singers are named, I’d have to suppose it’s going to be a concert recital of the opera, except that without anyone for Othello, it’ll be a strange concert. Still, if Rost Andrea sings, it doesn’t really matter who the other singers are, it is worth getting a ticket on either of the evening. Hope you can get yours in time too.

by P.S.

The author of Comparison of Learning Classical Singing between European and Chinese Singers, Ms. Shen has been very busy with duties outside the sphere of music in the last couple of years. She has been back to China, and she has also given birth to her first child, and then rearing him is mostly a full-time job.

She has recently returned to singing and has just participated in a concert with her husband, guitarist Marcus de Jong. After a lot of hesitation, we have decided to publish recordings from that concert beside one old video. If our visitors sometimes feel that not everything is perfect in her performance, that only illustrates our point in the book: it is difficult to perform in both genres, Western and Chinese classical music at the same time. But we do hope her performance is enjoyable.

Lennox Barkeley: Rachel – from Songs of the Half-Light op. 65

Lennox Barkeley: Full Moon – from Songs of the Half-Light op. 65

Gounod: Ave Maria

The Small Road (Chinese folk song)

A Wonderful Glass of Wine (Chinese folk song)

Puccini: Tu che di gel sei cinta (from Turandot)