Beauty and the Beast, the first animated film (Disney, 1991) to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Movie, has been a well-loved theatrical production around the world since its debut in 1994. The staged musical has been immensely popular in Hungary as well, marking its 1,000th performance September 20th.
There is even more excitement given the new translation, a project taken on by Director General of the Operetta Theater, Atilla Kiss B., who stated: “I needed a more poetic version, more faithful to the English original.”
The director asked famed poet János Dénes Orban, winner of the József Attila Prize, to provide a new translation for the performances in Hungary and for a planned tour as well.
Orban touted the immense popularity of the theater’s staging for the past 15 years – in Hungary and in German-speaking Europe, calling it “the best production of Beauty and the Beast in Europe.” And he took great care in formulating the new, fresher text. Per the theater’s contract with Disney, they were given just six weeks to complete the translation. Alongside conductors László Makláry and Tamás Bolba, Orban painstakingly refined the lyrics and even worked with director György Böhm to include a number of little jokes throughout.
Orban attested to the difficulty of translating the work, particularly as he had to follow the given score and, whereas most English words are one or two syllables, most Hungarian words are two or three. Nevertheless, the team successfully delivered a poetic, artistic rendition true to the original text and agreeable to the artists performing.
First appearing in Budapest in 2005 (also directed by Böhm), the Budapest Operetta Theatre then won the rights to perform its production in German-speaking Europe back in 2011. Director at the time, Miklós Gábor Kerényi, stated that the theater partly won the contract due to its beautiful costumes that were designed with Herendi, the famous Hungarian porcelain manufacturer.