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Hungary Fires Director of State Opera, Ending a Surreal Reign

By Ben Mattison
19 Jun 2006

Hungarian minister of culture István Hiller has fired Árpád Jutocsa Hegyi, the controversial general director of the Hungarian State Opera in Budapest, Italy's ANSA news agency reports.

Lajos Vass, an undersecretary of culture, will oversee the struggling company for the next six months.

Hegyi's tenure was marked by a budget crisis that has forced the company to lay off staff, cut performances and renegotiate its musicians' contract. In recent weeks, he has clashed with workers and other officials in a series of bizarre events.

In May, according to The Budapest Times, staff called a 30-minute strike to protest Hegyi's cuts, and music director Gergely Kesselyák resigned after declaring that either he or Hegyi would have to go. Later, singer István Rácz, the chair of the workers' council, accused Hegyi of threatening to murder him if he did not give up his position.

Days later, Hegyi replaced Kesselyák with György Győriványi Ráth, a former music director who had been fired in 2002 for incompetence. At the press conference announcing that appointment, conductor János Kovács made a brief appearance before Hegyi and Ráth spoke, warning the press that "everything these two gentlemen will tell you is a pack of lies."




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