Burgtheater declines invite to Budapest festival


Despite a personal meeting with Budapest National Theatre director Attila Vidnyánszky and Human Resources Minister Zoltán Balog, Vienna-based Burgtheater director Matthias Hartmann has nevertheless declined an invitation to participate in an international festival in 2014.

Hartmann joined Austrian artists in speaking out against Hungary's culture wars in February and was part of a group of 16 who signed an open letter released by the international writers club PEN International in May of this year that criticized the sitting government on a number of counts in the artistic sphere: “It is practically written into the new Hungarian Constitution that works reflecting a Christian-nationalist ideology will be given priority when state subsidies are disbursed,” the letter read in part. 

Among the complaints levied were those regarding the sacking of former National Theatre director Róbert Alföldi in favor of Vidnyánszky and the disproportionate power given the newly-formed Hungarian Art Academy (MMA) forum, which propagates the “extraordinary influence of narrow-minded ideologues.” Other signatories included pianist András Schiff, director Árpád Shilling and Deutsche Oper director Dietmar Schwartz.

Hartmann was subsequently invited to a discussion with Vidnyánszky and Balog, but the director replied in another open letter that he “did not intend to risk the good name” of the Burgtheater in an environment he sees as anti-Semitic.

Hartmann went on to write that Vidnyánszky and Balog “repeatedly misrepresented the content of their discussions” with him and that he was not willing to “help them whitewash the reputation of the cultural policies of the current Hungarian government.”

Seven troupes from six countries have confirmed participation in the festival.

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