Friday night Györgyi and I went to Szeged to the open-air theater to see the musical, Elisabeth. It’s originally an Austrian musical portraying the life and death of Elisabeth (Sisi) and the people in her life, but it’s become an incredibly popular musical in Hungary, being that Elisabeth is Hungary’s favorite Queen. (Incidentally, it is the most successful German-language musical ever).
I have always adored musicals and this one was very lovely, though a little harder for me to grasp while reading the truly awful subtitles (which I eventually stopped doing and just enjoyed the music and voices). The show is narrated by Luigi Lucheni, the man who assassinated Elisabeth. I think the real star of the show is Death, whom Lucheni claims has been Elisabeth’s lover her whole life.
I told Györgyi that I was a little bit surprised by the show because I think I was expecting Elisabeth to be the star. But really, the stars were the men in her life. Her assassin, Death, her husband and her son (and of course the Austrian and Hungarian men who were at the center of the political storm surrounding her and Franz Joseph’s reign). Now that I think of it, it didn’t really pay her tribute or reverence, and I say that only observationally. It really was a very “masculine” musical, if there is such a thing!
But the show was still a marvelous experience, and I hope I can go again next summer. Just being outside in that historical square under the shadow of the Dom. It was amazing. After intermission there is a scene where there are fireworks (just in case you forget that you’re at an open-air theater.)
We had a great seats right in the center and relatively close to the orchestra. The whole run has been sold out for months, so it was great to have such a good location. Hungarians entirely adore the arts and culture and it was evident by the crowd.
And I don’t know if it was an Austrian-imported tradition, but the pretzels that I see at all fairs were even more present at the theater. At intermission, almost everyone I saw returned with one of these GIANT PRETZELS. They sort of tasted like what Americans think of as Easter bread. Not like the heavy super pretzels at baseball games, but rather sweet and light with a touch of salt glaze.
Through the church giggles with Györgyi while reading the bad translation (God knows why they thought trying to rhyme it in English was a good idea) and the stage lights sweeping the near midnight cobble stone and bricked square, it was an absolutely wonderful way to return to Hungary and to Szeged, my favorite home away from home.
And for a little taste of the show, here is what I thought was the best part, the duet between Death and Elisabeth’s son, Rudolf: