Péter Rákossy / Hungarian State Opera
The Hungarian production of the Elton John stage musical Billy Elliot has been cancelled after a homophobic newspaper article accused the show of being ‘gay propaganda’.
The Hungarian State Opera announced last week that the Budapest run will be cut short because ticket sales had collapsed after the article was published.
The award-winning musical, based on the 2000 film and with music by Elton John, tells the story of an English coal miner’s son and his struggle against homophobia when he secretly starts attending ballet classes.
The opinion piece, published by conservative newspaper Magyar Idok, was written by a Zsofia N. Horvath, who accused the producers of trying to influence young people, reported the New York Times. She especially took umbrage at scenes in which boys danced with each other and dressed in ‘female’ clothes.
“How can such an important national institution as the opera go against the objectives of the state and use a performance made for young people around 10, at their most fragile age, for such pointed and unrestrained gay propaganda?” asked Horvath.
“Promoting homosexuality cannot be a national objective in a situation where the population is already aging and decreasing, and our nation is threatened by foreign invasion,” the writer continued.
Commentators have noted that there is no record of a journalist by the name of Zsofia N Horvath and have questioned who is actually behind the homophobic article.
The director of the Hungarian State Opera, Szilveszter Okovacs, responded that, “Just because something that is an undeniable part of life appears onstage at the opera, it doesn’t mean we are promoting it.”
He went on to announce that 15 of the remaining 44 scheduled performances of Billy Elliot had been cancelled “because of a fall in ticket sales in the wake of the controversy.”
Okovacs also told the BBC: “If parents hear from one side that Billy Elliot is gay propaganda, while from the other that this is terribly homophobic, they may conclude that our production is at least problematic, while in fact it is not. Everyone is making a mountain out of a molehill.”
Homosexuality is legal in Hungary and same-sex couples are given some protection and rights through cohabitation and registered partnership laws. The country’s 2012 Constitution, however, restricts marriage to only being possible between a man and a woman. Efforts to pass Russian-style legislation banning “the promotion of sexual deviations” have thus far failed.