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Batori Maria: Opera ket felvonasban (review)
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Notes 60.2 (2003) 529-533

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Ferenc Erkel. Bátori Mária: Opera két felvonásban = Opera in Two Acts. Text by Benjámin Egressy; edited by Miklós Dolinszky and Katalin Szacsvai-Kim. (Erkel Ferenc: Operák = Ferenc Erkel Operas, 1.) Budapest: Institute for Musicology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in association with the National Széchényi Library; Rózsavölgyi és Társa kiadása, 2002. [Vol. 1: Pref. in Hung., Eng., p. vi-vii; introd., p. viii-xxxvi; acknowledgments, p. xxxvii; facsims. (color), p. xxxvii-xlv; characters, orchestra, contents of the score, 2 p.; score (act 1), 365 p. ISBN 963-00-8628-X. Vol. 2: Score (act 2), p. 366-598; appendices, p. 599-758; libretto in Hung., Eng., p. 759-78; Ger. trans. of the text in the autograph score, p. 779-85. ISBN 963-00-8629-8. ISBN 963-00-8627-1 (set); RÉT 018 (set). €286.]

The publication of the full score to Ferenc Erkel's 1840 opera Bátori Mária (Mary Bátori) initiates an important and ambitious undertaking by the Musicological Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in conjunction with the Music Division of the Hungarian National Library: a complete scholarly edition of the composer's operas. Erkel (1810-1893), arguably next to Franz Liszt, did the most to bring Hungary's musical life to a standard approaching that of western Europe in the nineteenth century. Because he spent his entire career in Hungary and his main works —nine operas (some composed in collaboration with others) and patriotic choruses (including the national anthem)—are set to Hungarian texts, Erkel, like his Polish counterpart Stanisl-aw Moniuszko (1819- 1872), is little known abroad.

Until now those interested in nineteenth-century Hungarian opera have generally had access only to Erkel's second and fourth operas: Hunyadi László (1844) and Bánk bán (1861). Previous to the new edition of Bátori Mária, these were the only mid-nineteenth-century Hungarian stage works to occupy a permanent place in the repertory of the Hungarian Opera, to be commercially recorded, and to be published as piano-vocal scores.

The single most important source for the present edition of Bátori Mária is the autograph score used by Erkel in the thirty-eight performances of the work (all of which he led) at the National Theater from 1840 to 1860. (After the premiere of Bánk bán in 1861, Bátori Mária was not staged again until the present day.) Erkel's heirs gave this score to the Hungarian National Library in the early twentieth century. The editors of the present volume have also consulted the choral score, the banda score and parts, librettos printed in 1840 and 1858, two promptbooks, several copies of the overture (often performed apart from the opera), and, most important, the vocal and orchestral parts.

Unlike the autograph score, most of the manuscript sources (choral and orchestral parts, choral score, and banda score) were originally kept in the National Theater and were transferred to the Royal Hungarian Opera House when the music division of the National Theater moved there in 1884. [End Page 529] In the opera house these materials were stored—with manuscript scores and parts for numerous other works foreign (in Hungarian translation) and domestic—in a storeroom affectionately referred to as "the mine." A major renovation of the opera house (1980-84) motivated the logical transfer of this voluminous collection to the National Library, which is currently in the final stages of cataloging it. (An unfortunate result of the transfer was the disappearance of some significant items, most notably the full scores to the operas of Mihály Mosonyi [1815-1870].) The legacy of the music division of the National Theater is now officially available to researchers for the first time.

Although Hungarian scholars had already begun discussing a complete edition of Erkel's works in the late 1950s, the project was long thwarted by the lack of funding and the dispersion and inaccessibility of the sources. The Erkel edition...