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Interview with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on cultural television channel M5 before the premiere of György Kurtág’s first opera

Szilvia Sipos: According to the most widely read Italian newspaper, all the world’s media is eager to hear the premiere of György Kurtág’s first opera here in La Scala in Milan, which will begin while our programme is on air. The inspiration for Mr. Kurtág’s work – after which it is named – is Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play, “Endgame”. The Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán is also attending the premiere, and we are standing together here in the Museum of La Scala in a symbolic spot: in front of Ferenc Liszt’s piano. Prime Minister, why did you think it was important for you to attend this premiere?

Before I answer your question, allow me to congratulate the maestro. A premiere at La Scala is a remarkable event, and I think we are all happy at his success, and also sincerely hope that the performance will be a success. A few of us have come here – there are a handful of Hungarians here – to share in the joy at the maestro’s success. And of course we’re proud, because for us our Hungarian language is a cultural asset separating us from the rest of the world’s peoples: a special language that is not spoken by others. By contrast, through the medium of music – with the help of our geniuses – we are able to say who we are and what we think about the world. So while this evening is primarily the maestro’s, it also gives us Hungarians reason to be proud.

What expectations do you have of the premiere: the opera, the music?

A one-act absurdist drama – or an opera based on it – is bound to be something special. And unless the international press is mistaken – and why would it be? – this will be a special artistic experience for all of us. I am certain that today for the next two to three hours Milan and La Scala will be the most important place for Hungarian culture.

What do you think of György Kurtág’s role in Hungarian and world culture and music?

A prime minister should understand many things, but I don’t believe it’s for them to give lectures on music history. We all know him, and I’ve even had the opportunity to meet him in person. And when I was very young, Professor Nemeskürty drew my attention to György Kurtág, whom he considers to be a fine patriot and a great source of pride for the country – but undeservedly recognised by too few people in Hungary. I have known his art since then, and as I mentioned, I’ve also had the privilege to meet him in person once. He is a charming man, and his art will be valued by a host of music experts. All I would like to say is that we are proud to have geniuses such as Liszt, Bartók, Kodály, Ligeti and Kurtág, who have contributed major works to the history of world music.

Thank you very much, Prime Minister. There is also an exhibition about these geniuses – naturally including György Kurtág – here at La Scala in Milan, which introduces our contemporary music. The opera will be in La Scala’s programme until 25 November.