Păcat, pedeapsă și „A nemzethalál” în „Bátori Mária” de Ferenc Erkel’s (1840

In late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Hungary, an insistence that historical ‘sins’resulted in foreign oppression developed in literary endeavours. Relating the past tocontemporary strife in this period frequently involved interpreting historical narratives asepisodes in a sequence of earthly sin and divine punishment. The libretto for Erkel’s firstopera, derived from the 1793 historical play of the same title, alters the original conclusion tosuggest the futility of atonement amidst contemporary discord in nation building efforts.Discourse preoccupied with the future nation apparently lies at the heart of the very selfperpetuatingnature of ‘sin and punishment’ frequently cited as the cause of contemporarysubjugation within the Habsburg Empire. This opera presents ‘the nation’ as a cyclic entityin which contemporary suffering results from national ‘sins’ originating in, and remainingun-atoned for, since the medieval age.This paper, then, argues that Bátori Mária responds to this cyclic understanding of sufferingthrough a ‘musical hauntology’, or, Erkel’s musical narrative. Material related to the heroine(and her broader symbolic representation) acts as an omnipresent omen amidst the variouspower struggles between protagonists as the plot unfolds. Projecting contemporary fearsonto various factions of power facilitates considering the past, present, and future of Hungary in a simultaneous, multi-layered narrative. The inability to break the cyclesuggested in this work, however, demonstrates an important divergence from otherprominent contemporary uses of national history in opera. Rather than ‘learning from’ thepast, or presenting allegorical consolation for contemporary strife, Bátori Mária suggestsfears in the context of an apparently unresolvable state of punishment.


Key words: Erkel, Bátori Mária, Opera, Hungarian Nationalism

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Vol. 35 nr. 1

Vol. 35 nr. 1