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VeszpremFest Brings Back the Opera

VeszprémFest (July 11-15), which started with a group of friends thinking it would be a wonderful idea to get the world’s most famous singers to perform against the back drop of the castle, celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. We spoke with founder and organizer Zoltán Mészáros about how preparations are going.

Zoltán Mészáros

BBJ: What is new at VeszprémFest this year?

Zoltán Mészáros: We had been hesitating about how to celebrate our 15th anniversary; many ideas popped up, but producing a great night with opera stars returning to Veszprém turned out to be the winner. All of the four stars of our opera night are coming back after many years; the festival has not done an opera since 2012, though previously we had seven opera productions from Verdi’s “Rigoletto” to Mozart’s “Magic Flute” to Donizetti’s “Don Pasquale”. José Cura, the great Argentinean tenor opened the Festival in 2004, Andrea Rost was in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” in 2005, Erika Miklósa was the Queen of the Night in the Mozart piece in 2006, and we also had Ramón Vargas from Mexico. These four great singers have never been on stage together before, so I personally really look forward to it on July 13, outdoors at our fascinating new venue at the Bishop’s Garden.

BBJ: Who are the stars you are most looking forward to seeing on stage?

ZM: Well, as a general manager obviously I look forward to all of our productions, and from reggae to soul and from opera to pop, it’s so different night by night. But if you ask about my personal musical appetite, I might point to Joss Stone; she is really my cup of tea in terms of the musical genre she is performing.

BBJ: How are ticket sales going thus far?

ZM: Well, I was a little concerned about the opera, but tickets sales are good, although we still have another seven or eight weeks, and then I may be more relaxed about this! Joss is selling pretty well too. For the younger generations, we offer a double bill with Amy McDonald and Aloe Blacc, and this is not a typical VeszprémFest audience, but I still consider it to be important to offer artists and concerts for the youngers as well, so our marketing activity supporting the ticket sales will probably back up these two days of Ziggy and Amy/Aloe.

BBJ: Could you give us an overview of how successful last year was?

ZM: Financially it was about on plan; Tom Jones was unquestionably the greatest success, sold out weeks before the show and he delivered a surprisingly young and freshly arranged sound with the young British musicians around him. Sometimes it sounded far more like a blues night than a pop concert; it was really one of the most spectacular gigs of the festival. Our new outdoor venue, the Bishop’s Garden has successfully passed the exam: audience and supporters and guests all had really good feedback about it, so we return there again this year.

BBJ: Do you already have half an eye on the 2019 festival? If so, can you tell us any of your hopes and aspirations?

ZM: Surely, I do! We have just started to book artists for the 2019 festival. We have some uncertainties around the renovation and renewal of the Veszprem Arena (it will be enlarged from 5,300 to 8,300 seats), so we really need to see clearly as soon as possible whether the renovation starts next summer or not. We use the arena as alternative rain venue, but in the case of the “heavy hitter” stars we might be able to book, we use it as the sole venue as it has a way bigger capacity than our outdoor one. Anyhow, we are really looking for an attractive line-up for 2019 as well, and considering the unexpectedly good ticket sales for the opera, we might do something again in that genre next year too.

BBJ: Is there anything else we should consider?

ZM: Maybe our fascinating Rosé, Riesling and Jazz Days mini-festival (July 6-15), now into its eighth year. Ten days, 30 winemakers, 30 concerts, wines only from the Lake Balaton region, young Hungarian bands; it’s a free admission event, and a really a great one…