Partner: Peabody Opera
Title: The Champion
Artists: Béla Pintér (HU)
Sam Mungo (US)
Peabody Opera Artistic Director
Dates: Baltimore Museum of Art
13-16 February, 2020
The Béla Pintér Theater Company has carved out a unique place for itself in Hungarian Theater. For over two decades it has been one of the most successful of the independent companies, with Béla directing, writing, and performing, in a stunningly diverse repertoire. They've made two American tours, one to the Lincoln Center Festival in NYC with The Peasant Opera, and a three-city tour (NYC, Boston/Emerson, Hanover/Dartmouth) of Our Secrets. One of Béla's most controversial productions was a 2016 co-production of The Champion with the famed Katona József Theater in Budapest.
Philip saw the work early and started getting the word out about this ode to political hypocrisy and degradation, just the thing we need here in the US. He introduced the work to Sam Mungo, the new director of the Peabody Opera, and an early-2020 production is in the works, translated into English, with Pinter coming to the US to direct. In late spring, the production will move to Budapest and Vienna as part of the Armel Opera Festival.
From the Contemporary Drama Festival Budapest:
The Champion, mixing the tradition of folk theatre with the tools of opera, is both lewd and true, Hungarian, elaborating on a tabloid subject, political and love story, which presents the so-called ‘small Hungarian reality’, laden with repressed secrets. Inspired by Puccini, Pintér wrote an entirely new story. He tells a story of a small-town mayor’s tumultuous love life, featuring the amorous attraction of two women, a politician’s wife and a successful sportswoman. There is a relationship which can be sacrificed, which becomes the prey of duty. A fictive town, Verőcsény, is organizing elections for the mayor’s position, which is won a fourth time by Attila. After the long election day an illustrious company gathers at the house of the mayor, his wife, his campaign leader, a local TV crew and the Olympic medalist sportswoman come to celebrate. But soon enough, the true relations start to surface. Pinter stages characteristic rural figures, rotten to the core, a political elite drowning in its own lies, who, as usual in the plays by Pintér, submerge deeper and deeper in their own excrements. For Pintér’s topical performance the tabloid story is just a pretext, as he follows his own artistic rules, creating real dramatic situations, conflicts, true human characters in this enclosed environment. He shows us a tableaux of the public life of politicians, where the decent family life is just a front. Pintér’s contemporary and shockingly innovative piece has met the real gossips of political life, stirring up a sizeable scandal. The show also does not shy away from the compassionate portrayal of tragic, truly human situations.