Frau Holle is a children’s opera this time

The Bartók Spring Festival’s program boasts a real treasure: the premiere of the children’s opera, Frau Holle, at Müpa This stage piece by Dániel Csengery, winner of a prize in the institution’s 2020 music competition, is a noteworthy addition to the children’s opera repertoire, which is still relatively limited. The opera tells the story of a girl who faces various challenges after jumping into a well, including shaking an apple tree and pulling bread from the oven. She eventually meets Mother Holle, who gives her a task that causes snow to fall. The story emphasizes the importance of diligence, a crucial trait for school readiness.

It would certainly be interesting to hear the opinions of story psychologists and story therapists on this Grimm fairy tale, which has its roots in the ancient past. Warning, spoilers ahead, as this is the short version of the story:

A girl is constantly ignored by her stepmother who only cares about her stepsister. One day she even forces the girl to jump into a well to retrieve a lost spool. In the world of the well, which is above the clouds at the same time, she has to face several trials. For example, she has to shake an apple tree full of ripe apples or get a loaf of bread out of the oven before it burns. She manages to do both, of course. Finally, she meets Frau Holle, an “old woman with long teeth”. She is sent to work as a servant with him, and above all she has to shake out the blankets, which causes snow to fall on the ground. After a while, the girl asks to be dismissed, and Frau Holle rewards her with a generous golden shower. When the girl returns home, she is greeted by the rooster: “Cock-a-doodle-doo! Our lovely daughter has returned home!”. Seeing this, the ugly and lazy stepsister sets off on the same journey, but fails the tests. Frau Holle therefore dismisses her, and his punishment is a lifetime’s worth of tar.

Zsuzsanna Tölgyessy, who has been lecturer to students who learn to be pre-school teachers for decades and whose research field is children’s folklore, writes in a study that the fairy tale of Frau Holle

“forms a transition between magic and realistic fairy tales: the role of the existing miraculous elements is only partly to build up a fantasy world; their more important role is to lead us into everyday life and to draw attention to the importance of diligence. The fairytale reward is also intended to reinforce the paramount importance of diligence. This fairy tale describes an important characteristic of being ready for school – a sense of responsibility.”

While the story is rather suitable for older children, the music’s lively and inventive orchestration, melodic and spicy harmonies, and catchy melodies will enchant young and old alike. Csengery’s music is well-known from his work in theater and film, and his compositions have been used in movies such as Liza the Fox Fairy and The Apple Tree Flower. In this work, he seeks to introduce young audiences to the genre of opera and its unique elements, while offering a complex experience for adults.

To further engage children, a pre-performance activity called “Tuning in” will be available. The Budapest Strings, along with choreographer Dóra Barta and members of the Badora dance Company, will perform the show.

The singing roles will be sung by acclaimed artists, including Dalma Süle from the Operetta Theatre, private singers Viktoria Mester and Andrea Meláth from the Hungarian State Opera House, and Jászai Mari Prize-winning actor Ákos Kőszegi. This talented ensemble guarantees an unforgettable performance. Parents looking to introduce their children to the magic of opera should not miss this opportunity to create a lifelong love of musical theatre.

Article: Anna Rácz

Translation: Nóra Fehér & Zsófia Hacsek