Sándor, Ede

Excelsior! - Franz Liszt Goes to Heaven

2011.03.09. 14:19


A world premiere at the Hungarian State Opera House, Budapest.

The opera's plot is built around Ferenc Liszt's planned wedding to a loving but excessively anxious bride (Carolyne), an unexpected turn, and the Pope's decision - a result of intrigues - to declare a union which was previously approved, null and void. After being disillusioned and shattered by these events, Liszt underwent a spiritual change: he was ordained, became an abbot, and received the tonsure. But this didn't mean giving up everyday life and his profession as a musician. However, in the performance we'll see the man and not the world-famous musician, there won't be even a piano on the scene.

At the heart of these events is Liszt, who learns to influence them through his own force of will, and the aid of supernatural forces: a dark demonic one, and a holy helper, named Elisabeth. As a result of his challenges, he undergoes a metamorphosis both in body and spirit, which triggers a full gamut of reactions in everyone involved. Each character in the opera represents aspects of Liszt's complex life and character, and each must bear the consequences of Liszt's decisions. On the one hand, Cosima and Wagner appear to present Liszt as a father and friend in their love stories, which are an adjunct to the plot; but on the other, their fate is also a parallel to Liszt's and Carolyne's story: both couples are preparing for a wedding, and both are waiting for a father's blessing. In addition, they are all on the verge of a change in their lives: Liszt and Carolyne, Cosima and Wagner, the valet who serves Liszt and yearns for a life outside of service, and Cardinal Hohenlohe and the Pope, who are waiting for important decisions concerning the problems of the universal church.

None of the characters know whether their decisions are right; they only know that they must act in order to ensure their future happiness. The central message in the opera is that Liszt's greatness arose from his humanity, rather than his musical genius. Marriage presented Liszt with an opportunity to conform, achieve a superficial sense of normalcy in the world, while becoming an abbot gave him the opportunity to achieve spiritual harmony. The struggle he faced, between satisfying his earthly desires, and attaining spiritual transcendence, changed his attitude toward life, the people in his life, and his life itself.

The world premiere of the 'semi-serious opera in two acts' composed by Gyula Fekete is on 18 March 2011. The libretto is written by András Papp, the performance is directed by Péter Gothár.