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Summer-long Festival to Please Most Demanding Cultural Consumers

It is worth adjusting your holiday calendar to take account of the Budapest Summer Festival: the cream of the crop series of programs between June 9 and August 26 offers a wide range of cultural events from classical music concerts, opera and ballet shows to pop concerts and exhibitions. No matter the genre, the requirement is always outstanding quality. Teodóra Bán, the head of the festival, tells the Budapest Business Journal her vision about the ideal evening in Budapest.

Teodóra Bán

BBJ: The Margaret Island Open-air Stage, one of the regular venues of the festival, opened 80 years ago. How do you celebrate? 

Teodóra Bán: A gift for Budapest – this is our motto this year to mark the anniversary. The season will kick off with a free and grandiose open-air concert on Margaret Island’s Nagyrét on June 9, where Norwegian violinist, Alexander Rybak and the Hungarian State Opera Orchestra will make sure that the audience feels the rhythm. We really would like to see people dancing. This is why we named the opening concert “Barefoot in the Park” and decided to have it outside of our traditional venues. The stage program starts the next day with the concert of alternative rock band Quimby and the Óbuda Danubia Orchestra.

BBJ: On Margaret Island you have events at the Water Tower and at the Dominican convent ruins, too, while you also have another venue on the Buda side in Városmajor. Classical music concerts and ballet will also be on stage, as well as electronic and pop music, not to mention that there will be plays for kids too. Can you pick personal favorites from such a big assortment?

TB: All the events are dear to my heart, but I would highlight two big operas, the “Salome” and the “Rigoletto”, which might attract huge international interest. But it is hard to stop as I am also looking forward to “The Great Gatsby” ballet show and the Béjart Ballet’s “The Magic Flute”. And, indeed, we would like to take advantage of the unique architectural environment that our big stage is located next to the country’s oldest and biggest water tower. It has been renovated recently and got back its original look and during the festival it will serve as a look-out tower as well as an exhibition place. The Water Tower with its secessionist stairs and its view on the city is a touristic sight in itself; no wonder it attracts 8,000-10,000 visitors per year anyway. We are also happy to have a boat service coming to the theater’s own port. It is really the cherry on the cake if, after watching a beautiful play, people finish their evening by taking a look at the lights of Budapest from the River Danube.

BBJ: The Festival has an impressive line-up. Is it easy to attract international stars to play here?

TB: The old historic venue demands respect and has always had its appeal. Already in the beginning we could present legends like the Italian conductor Giuseppe Patané or the Russian opera singer Jevgenyij Nyeszterenko. They helped to establish our name and we keep having great artists who keep spreading the good reputation of the Margaret Island Open-air Stage, and also of Hungary’s unique beauty and intellectual quality. So, luckily, I can say that all the big names are happy to play here and thanks to them it is also easy to attract international audiences. At this year’s festival we expect an audience of about 110,000.