The Hungarian state opera has recently announced that some performances of Billy Elliot have been cancelled, allegedly over fears that the musical 'promotes homosexuality.'
The opera chief denies that the recent cancellations were prompted by pressure from the nationalist government.
Pro-government media have been claiming that the musical is "gay propaganda" that could turn children to homosexualtiy.
Refugees, Hungarian civil society groups, and progressive academic institutions have all recently experienced crackdowns by nationalist prime minisiter Viktor Orban.
The Magyar Idok newspaper recently claimed that the musical undermines Orban's defence of traditional Christian family values. The musical follows a young boy whose dream of becoming a ballet dancer faces challenge from his relatives in northern England.
“It is not a national goal to promote homosexuality in a situation where the population is decreasing/ageing, and our country is threatened by foreign invasion,” the newspaper wrote.
The article further said: “Billy Elliot . . . runs completely counter to the state’s objectives, and exposes children at the most tender age of about 10 years old to such penetrating, rampant gay propaganda.”
Critics of Orban's leadership consider the recent cancellation of the musical as a further example of rising illiberalism in Hunary.
However Szilvester Okovacs, the opera's general director, has claimed that commercial pressures were behind the cancellations not poltical influence.
Okovacs recently wrote in a published letter: "As you know, the negative campaign in recent weeks against the Billy Elliot production led to a big drop in ticket sales and for this reason we are cancelling 15 performances.”
Okovacs told The Irish Times: “The government of Hungary is a Christian democratic one. They do not control the opera in a direct way. As for me, I am also committed to the Christian democratic values.”
Although 15 performances have been cancelled, 29 shows are still scheduled to be performed.
Despite Okovacs insisting the move was due to commercial interest, award-winning Hunagarian theatre director Aprad Schilling is preparing to move from Budapest to France.
“The leaders of Hungarian state institutions are avoiding conflict with the government,” Schilling said.
“The situation is terrible, shameful and unbearable. That’s why I’m leaving the country. If there was a real fight against the reigning power, I would stay, but there is not any – the Hungarian intellectuals capitulated.”