Müpa is 16 years old today

Müpa has held a lot of birthdays already. Last time it was György Kurtág whom we could celebrate in front of our screens with the help of a live streamed concert and beautiful archive videos. Also, Péter Eötvös had a Müpa-birthday some years ago, where actor Pál Mácsai recited Péter Esterházy’s work, the basis of a composition. Kálmán Záborszky conducted at his 70th-birthday-concert, Judit Varga celebrated her birthday on the day of the premiere of her piece Mr West, but we can also mention Kálmán Oláh’s 50th and Mátyás Antal’s 75th birthdays from last year, or Iván Fischer’s 70th from this year. And now it is the whole institution that celebrate its 16th anniversary.

It is hard to decide how I feel. “Only sixteen…?”, or “Wait, is it sixteen already?!”. The building appears to have always been there. The many cultural events make every season so full that it is hard to imagine how they can put all these things within such a short timeframe. And years converge, too, as some of the events happen over and over again. Like there are Wagner Days every year. Speaking about birthdays: in 2020 it started on 18 June, the common birthday of three legendary opera singers (Iréne Theorin, Catherine Foster and Éva Marton). And there is also a cyclical Festival of Early Music: artists not only bring us music but a special kind of knowledge from the past, about the past.

Müpa is also an important contributor to the Transparent Sound New Music Festival and the CAFe Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival. We can thank them as wonderful premieres and shows that one cannot list. Only a few examples: Ólafur Arnalds, József Balog, the Dohnányi Orchestra with Gábor Hollerung, the RIAS Kammerchor with James Wood, the Art of Virus series, the Solus Amor contemporary circus show, the opera Angels in America, the In Vain by Georg Friedrich Haas. A lot of young composers could introduce themselves, not to mention the whole composing competition.

Müpa also gives the chance to young instrumentalists and singers to show their talent with the Rising Star series: early career musicians come to Budapest from all parts of Europe. There is also another programme, Bridging Europe; thanks to that, several great productions, from Spain to Lithuania, could be played in Hungary.

And there were all those wonderful shows from outside Europe! I loved Bombino, Danyel Waro, Djénéba & Fousco and Ryoko Aoki, just to name a few. And there was all that jazz, with Jazz Showcase and Jazz Spring: we had Branford Marsalis, Jane Monheit, Krisztián Oláh coming, and the Hungarian Jazz Association could also celebrate a round anniversary last year. Even if “only” in front of empty rows, with a drive-in cinema audience outside.

The pandemic has been around for more than a year by now, and Müpa has been showing an astonishing repertoire of alternative solutions, so that we still have arts in our lives. These days we can watch live streams from our homes. In the chaotic times of autumn and early winter there were some last minute changes and reinventions of old genres. In summer we could go to the drive-in cinema. And last spring, when the whole situation was brand new and artists and institutions did not know what to do, Müpa opened its archives to the general public. And because there were no live shows, they broadcasted old videos that they could not be left on their channels for legal reasons, so they were really like one-time concert experiences.

One year ago, Müpa was forced to concentrate on old times instead of inventing new things. And now it was me who remembered all the wonders that we keep receiving from this special cultural institution. Sweet Sixteen, Müpa! Happy birthday to you!