The Legend of Saint Elizabeth – The President’s Welcoming Address
Human fate is composed of the interrelation of work and feasts: history, the nation, and the handshake of the committed all rest upon them. This relation brings forth works in all fields of arts that provide indispensible nourishment to the soul.
It is thus necessary to recognize, enter into the spirit of, acquire, and pass on the established values and it is not by chance either that these values condense necessarily on important days and in the works of extraordinary significance.
The Vigadó of Pest (The Redoute) was erected as a palace symbolizing the sudden flourishing of the Hungarian culture in the middle of the 19th century. Soon after its completion, however, the building fell prey to the flames with tragic rapidity. Its quick reconstruction was completed on 15 August 1865 and exactly 150 years ago its gates were opened to the citizens of the capital eager for beauty.
I deem it symbolic that Ferenc Liszt’s remarkable work, The Legend of Saint Elizabeth was chosen for the protagonist of the re-inauguration of the magnificent building on the river Danube, and that this music made the historical wings of culture soar towards heaven at that time.
The Hungarian Academy of Arts, the new intellectual master of the building, appeals to Liszt’s work and Saint Elizabeth’s personal example as homage this time as well: the trio of goodness, generosity, and a sense of responsibility. We are not only beneficiaries of what time has brought forth, preserved and handed down to us but also responsible for its fate. This is the essence of all feasts. The Saint is invariably with us these days too and the eternal music will worthily evoke her exemplary life.
Thoughts on The Legend of Saint Elizabeth by Ferenc Liszt and its 150th -Jubilee Performance in the Vigadó (The Redoute) of Budapest
With the help and support of the Hungarian Academy of Arts an old dream comes true: Ferenc Liszt’s oratorio The Legend of Saint Elizabeth is going to be produced with Hungarian text just as it was 150 years ago, at its premiere, on 15 August 1865 in the Vigadó (The Redoute) of Pest.
The work was sung with Kornél Ábrányi’s Hungarian text (a translation from the original German by Otto Roquette) at that time, the performance was conducted by Ferenc Liszt. Later the oratorio gained entry to music literature with German text once and for all. This is the reason why in this jubilee concert commemorating the 150th anniversary of its first performance I insisted on presenting the work in Hungarian once again so that it could be recorded, and the picture and sound preserved for the future. This opportunity must be used, all the more so, as I have always sung the part of Elizabeth in German in Hungary and abroad and the record released in July 1984 also contained the work in German.
My adherence to and affection for Liszt’s oeuvre has already been manifest during my studies at the Academy of Music. His songs appeared regularly on the program of my student concerts and were essential components of my later song recitals as well. Moreover, Liszt’s works constitute the foundation of my educational work as a professor, and the requirements of the 1st International Éva Marton Singing Competition in 2014 also included a song by Liszt.
The figure of Saint Elizabeth, wife to Ludwig IV, the landgrave of Thuringia, has accompanied me in different forms throughout my career. I sang the role of Getrudis in Bánk bán (Elizabeth was her third child) and played the part of Elizabeth of Thuringia in Wagner’s Tannhäuser – among others in Bayreuth – as well as in Liszt’s oratorio The Legend of Saint Elizabeth. Thus my relation and deep attachment to Saint Elizabeth have lingered through singing some of her parts all over my career.
Please give a warm welcome to this work which is for me not only a magnificent oratorio but the sincere profession of faith and prayer of one of our great composers as well, embracing the whole Nation and giving strength to everybody listening to it. Take home in your heart and mind what you have heard, and the love for our community and country that Ferenc Liszt bequeathed to us in his work launched 150 years ago.