There's always a happy end

Rising Hungarian tenor Daniel Vadasz is bringing the Budapest Operetta Theater here for a dose of 'culture with a wink.'

Opera good 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Opera good 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It's past 10 p.m. He's just spent two and a half hours acting, dancing and singing up a storm, but when Daniel Vadasz walks into the greenroom at the Budapest Operetta Theater, his step is as buoyant, his eye as bright as if the evening has just begun. At only 33, Vadasz is one of the rising young stars at both the Hungarian Opera and Operetta and he lends his easy lyric tenor to roles such as Alfred in Die Fledermaus, Don Jose in Carmen and Tassilo in The Countess Maritza. He'll be onstage at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center from December 11 through 13 with his fellow stars, Russian diva Karina Chepurnova and the Budapest Operetta Theater company, in Operetta Squared, highlights from four of the most loved operettas in the genre: The Merry Widow, Die Fledermaus (The Bat), The Gypsy Princess and The Countess Maritza. The Budapest Operetta Theater was here last year and "when we arrived then, it was with some apprehension," said Vadasz, "because we wondered how the audience would receive us - and also, here we had come to a place so often in the news. But the Israeli audience was with us from the beginning, so this time we have no worries." His brown eyes are open and friendly, the smile is warm and his round face is ingenuous. All he needs is a straw boater to resemble a very young Maurice Chevalier with a wee beard and mustache. Its devotees say that operetta has everything - dance, song, catchy music, great tunes, "and flexibility of phrasing, more so than in the classical opera," says Vadasz. "It's also more audience conscious." And of course, there's always the happy end. OPERETTA IS culture with a wink, you might say, and Vadasz came to it by chance. Born in a small country town about 200 km. from Budapest, Vadasz played the clarinet and sang in local choirs growing up. When he was 19, he started formal vocal training and joined the Debrecen Opera Choir while studying law. Debrecen, in the east, is Hungary's second largest city. "At first I didn't think about singing as a career," he says. "I graduated law school, but I've never practiced. I went to school for five years and was at the opera for six. In my sixth year I was already a soloist, and by then I knew that singing was what I wanted." Sometimes, to move on, a nudge is necessary - and Vadasz's nudge came when the Debrecen Opera appointed a new director-general he didn't like. The young singer decided it was time to move on. He received offers from other opera houses, but in 2002 he sang Alfred in Fledermaus at the Budapest Operetta Theater, he was hired and he's been on the roster ever since. In 2004 he made his debut at the Hungarian Opera "as the fiancé in a very experimental production of Blood Wedding," Vadasz explains. "The opera got mixed reviews, but it opened my career, and today I sing with both companies." Along with his roles as Alfred and Tassilo, he sings Danilo in The Merry Widow and Edwin in The Gypsy Princess with the Budapest Operetta Theater. At the opera, he just opened as Don Jose in Carmen, and he sings Ferrando in Cosi Fan Tutte. Sensibly, he resists requests to take on the heavier tenor roles, such as those in Verdi and Puccini, insisting that he's not vocally ready; though after much pleading, he did do the title role in a concert version of Tales of Hoffman. But ask him the source of his greatest joy and a huge smile unfurls as he tugs out of his pocket a picture of his six-month-old daughter, Laura. His wife is Monika Fischel, also a Budapest Operetta Theater company member. "People ask me, 'What are your dreams?' and I tell them my family, to spend my life with my family, and after that, the good roles. Right now I'm very happy. The way ahead is long, I know that, but right now nothing is missing in my life." Tfutfutfu, as they say! The Budapest Operetta Built in 1894, the opulent little house with its two tiers of boxes functioned as a kind of music/operetta hall until World War I. During the war years it was dark and only in 1923 did the building become the Budapest Operetta's home. During WWII, both Nazi occupiers and local fascists applauded the traditional productions that continued, despite the horrors outside, until 1945 when Hungary fell within the then-Soviet sphere of influence. Operetta continued, but not the 19th century confections starring cheeky peasants and blithe aristocrats, according to Budapest Operetta administrator Gyorgy Lorinczy. The genre had to conform to Soviet propaganda in which the aristocrats are stupid or evil and the peasants are victorious workers - "although words and music stayed the same," he said. The Sovietization of operetta had gone by the end of the Sixties, perhaps because the audiences largely stayed away. These days, Budapest Operetta Theater presents not only the well-loved classics, but also new works, Broadway musicals and not least, the world's first klezmer musical, Wedding Dance.