It was the 17th time this year that the Bartók Plus Opera Festival has taken place in Miskolc, which welcomed not only internationally highly acclaimed artists but also young talents. The festival is dedicated to the preservation of Bartók’s legacy, and – true to the composer’s ethos – to the support of young talents. The opera composition contest ’Key to the future’ was first announced in 2013. Its aim was to promote contemporary, post-Bartók operas. The final of the 2016 contest was held at the Liszt Academy, opening up future perspectives for the stage performances of the winners of later years.
Szabolcs Mátyássy (Photo: Vera Éder)
In 2016, the international jury deemed Szabolcs Mátyássy’s work, Scævola, best, which could be viewed and heard by the public audience first on stage accompanied by orchestra at the 2017 Bartók Plus Opera Festival in Miskolc. The contest called for „folk operas”, which the wider public could also find more digestible. The background of the plot of the two-act dramatic opera is an old legend, the story of Mucius Scævola, who saved Rome with courage and perseverance, thrusting his right hand into a fire for his fellow-Romans. The story was, however, re-contextualised: set at the turn of the millennium in a war-environment. The composer completed the work in less than half a year. The quick work was – as he pointed out – partly inspired by the topic, as even contemporary music can be digested more in easily in an emotional context. The tragedy-loaded war-setting did not only provide the work with an excellent dramatic foundation but also reflects on current issues.
Extraordinarily, Andrea Rost accepted the role of Sofija, the religious sister symbolising peace, even before becoming familiar with the opera. The internationally acclaimed soprano does not usually sing contemporary pieces, but she made an exception here, as it is not possible to support the future of the opera without supporting young composers at the first steps on their career path.