No reasons offered for cancellation of elite event for second consecutive year
The Budapest Opera Ball has been cancelled for the second year running. While last year the reason given was the economic crisis and various natural disasters, and the fatal red sludge industrial accident, this year no attempt at an explanation has even been made by the ball organisers.
Viennese waltzes, the clink of champagne glasses, debutantes, ballgowns and white tie; there will be none of that this year with the cancellation of the Budapest Opera Ball.
The good old days
Hungarians are traditionally proud of their national identity. Yet the fact that this includes Turkish baths, Viennese café culture and Russian “kolbász” is undeniable. Many like to think back nostalgically to the turn of the last century, when the Hungarian State Opera was opened, based on the Viennese model.
From 1996 such enthusiasts had one evening in the year, the penultimate Saturday of the ball season, to relive the old times.
After an interruption of 62 years, the Budapest Opera Ball was re-introduced in all its elegance and finery that year. For the next 15 years the event attracted prominent economic, political and cultural figures from Hungary, as well as international artists and tourists dancing together to Strauss waltzes and tasting food from Gundel at the building designed by Miklós Ybl.
Today there is only one sentence on the www.operabal.com website about the lack of such an event this year: “The Hungarian State Opera House does not organise (sic) the Budapest Opera Ball in 2012.” The website still contains a long explanation about the cancellation of the 2011 Opera Ball, citing the former ministerial commissioner for the opera house. Ádám Horváth is quoted as saying that when Hungary is suffering the damaging effects of the economic crisis and various natural disasters, then culture should also take on social responsibility.
Instead of the 2011 ball a charity gala concert was held last March. This year there is no mention of that happening. The Budapest Tourist Office is referring queries to the Tourinform office on Deák tér. There, however, they were unable to say what might be the reasons for the cancellation.
Opera house won’t sing
The opera house itself has also remained silent. Despite repeated inquiries by The Budapest Times, no response has been forthcoming. This year its new ministerial commissioner cannot give natural disasters as an explanation. Nor did Mihály Gyulai, the CEO of Operabál Kft., which organised the ball until 2010, wish to comment. The company continues to exist, as does a framework agreement on organisation of the ball, but it is the management of the opera house that decides if and when the ball takes place.
Gyulai said he was not authorised to give information about why the ball is off. A former employee of Operabál Kft., Péter Kocsmáros, said he suspects that nothing more than incompetence and lack of will lies behind the cancellation. He believes that the opera house is not capable of organising the ball because of a lack of staff and a firm decision. The problem is not likely to be a lack of money because the ball finances itself, Kocsmáros said.
Not the age of decadence
The ball has always been a charity event. On the big night food was distributed to those in need on the street. However, over the years, the event has come to be regarded in some quarters as decadent and has attracted strong opposition. The demonstrations on the opposite side of Andrássy út in 2009 resulted in five people being arrested.
Negative press and new pictures of demonstrators on the street are surely not what the government would like to see. Perhaps the elite simply do not want to face the decision of whether to attend. Or could it be that some prominent persons with influence in the decision would simply struggle on the dance floor if it were time again for “Alles walzer!” (Let’s waltz!)