The most popular Hungarian rock opera Stephen, the King (“István, a király” in Hungarian), about the foundation of the Hungarian state from one thousand years ago, is going to be staged in Szeklerland with all Transylvanian-Hungarian artists. According to the plans, it will be played four times in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe) in the Sepsi Arena on August 20, 2021, the State Foundation Day of the Hungarians, when they commemorate Hungary’s first King, St. Stephen.
The most popular Hungarian rock opera
The “Stephen, the King” rock opera was written in the early 1980s by two members of one of the most popular Hungarian rock bands of the 60s and 70s called “Illés.” Music of the rock opera was written by Levente Szörényi, and the lyrics by János Bródy. The premiere was in the summer of 1983 in an open-air stage in the heart of Budapest, in the Városliget (City Park), in front of 120,000 people. This first performance was also filmed and showed later in cinemas all over Hungary while the music was released in the form of a double album on LP and cassette. Stephen, the King instantly became a huge revelation for the people in Hungary, who had been living in a communist dictatorship for more than three decades at that time, as they could finally sing freely and be proud again about their thousand-year-long history.
Twenty years later, in 2003, a catharsis was triggered again, when the play first premiered in Transylvania, 400 kilometers from today’s Hungarian borders in Csíksomlyó (Șumuleu) for the Transylvanian-Hungarian audience. The effect here was also cathartic. Half a million people gathered together to be part of this historic event. (See the video below)
“Stephen, the King” returns to Szeklerland this summer
And now in 2021, the most popular Hungarian rock opera is going to return to Szeklerland. Producer Árpád Zsolt Dancs said at the show’s press conference on Wednesday that the preparations have been going on already for a year, and rehearsals are happening now simultaneously at several locations.
The rock band has been rehearsing for a year and they will be joined by a 35-member symphonic band, a 150-member choir, a 60-member ballet and numerous extras (background actors).
All artists participating in the show are Transylvanian or were born in Transylvania, and the goal is to put these local talents forward and also to give them a beam of hope during these hard, pandemic times.
“It is a huge work, but the rights holder and the creators are helping us with advice; they are communicating with us on a daily basis,” said Árpád Zsolt Dancs.
Video messages from the creators of the rock opera, Levente Szörényi and János Bródy, were also played at the press conference. According to János Bródy, Transylvania deserves a performance like this and added that he is looking forward to it with great excitement. Both he and Levente Szörényi recalled the performance in Csíksomlyó from 18 years ago, where half a million people celebrated together, and both of them hope that they will be able to personally attend the show in the Sepsi Arena.
“Not only was the hillside full there, but our hearts and our souls too,” said the choreographer of the August show, Orza Călin, referring to the Csíksomlyó performance too.
“In the Carpathian Basin, this rock opera will still have a message in a hundred years’ time.”
– said Sepsiszentgyörgy Mayor Árpád Antal, who thanked the work of all the contributors. Kovászna (Covasna) County Council President Sándor Tamás called the setting-up of the show an epoch-making, huge step and quoted from the rock opera: “Somebody tomorrow will have to defeat the darkness, the old fairy tales have to be rewritten.”
Press officer of the show, Kinga Kitty Ménessy, introduced the rock band and some of the participating singers, who also sang excerpts from the rock opera. The rest of the artists’ names will be announced later.
Title image: Participating singers performing excerpts from Stephen, the King at the show’s press conference on March 3, 2021, in Sepsiszentgyörgy. (Photo: Hunor Kristó-Gothárd)