European Association for Jewish Culture 

 

 

European Association for Jewish Culture 

Review
Spring-Summer 2002

The Golem comes to life on a Budapest stage
 

The story of the Prague Golem continues to exercise the creative imagination of artists: the interplay of tradition, symbolism and moral dilemmas has recently brought the Golem to life at the Budapest Operetta.

 
The premiere of the musical play Golem marked the opening of a new experimental theatre at the Budapest Operetta House in April 2002 in the presence of the city's deputy mayor. Extensive media coverage ensured that all the performances played to capacity audiences, including many younger people, who responded warmly to the play's humour and to its political message.

The Yiddish theatre tradition
 
The tradition of the Yiddish theatre is little known in Hungary today. The team of artists at the Budapest Operetta House wanted to emulate the musical plays of the legendary Moscow Jewish Theatre, where tradition and modernity coexisted happily. In choosing the Golem as their subject, they wished to convey the metaphysical meaning of the legend: the role and responsibility of human beings in creating life. At the same time they were keen to place the action in a contemporary Hungarian context. 'The political message of the play', said the writer and director András Almási-Tóth, 'was to target antisemitism and xenophobia in today's Hungary'. The story is told partly through dialogue and partly through songs, with the settings explained by sub-titles as in a silent movie.

 The cast of seven actors included Adám Rajhona, Mónika Sáfár, Agota Siménfalvi, Tibor Szloboda and Szilvester P. Szabó. There were also puppets and eight musicians. The Golem is at first represented by a giant puppet, but is later played by an actor as the story unfolds and he becomes human. The drama turns from comedy—with a liberal use of irony and Jewish humour—to tragicomedy. The music, composed and directed by Gergely Vajda, is based on traditional Jewish melodies and includes Yiddish songs performed by the Golem as well as new material. Margit Balla was responsible for the striking and atmospheric stage design.

 

The play was included in the programme of the 2002 Budapest Spring Festival. The success of Golem ensured that it will be featured again in next season's programme of the Budapest Operetta House.

András Almási-Tóth is a stage director whose productions have included Carmen, Orlando, The Death of the Survivor and The Bat (a new version of Strauss' Die Fledermaus). In the past two years, he has directed Rob and Tot by Vera Flió at the Hungarian Theatre Festival, As I Crossed the Bridge of Dreams by Peter Eötvös at the Budapest Spring Festival and Lead Soldiers, an opera by Lajos Kassák and Agnes Kamondy at the Budapest Puppet Theatre.

Newsletter Home/First grants awarded for Jewish culture/
Ghetto: a life-affirming new ballet/Jingele o Maidele: a dance allegory/Personal perspectives/The Golem comes to life on a Budapest stage/Introducing the grant winners/ Calendar of performances and exhibitions/Grants for 2003