8 November 2013, Budapest

Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen!

Greetings to all of you on this ceremonious evening on which, after a forced interval of six years, the curtain finally rises once again in the country's largest theatre. In the theatre which bears the name of Ferenc Erkel and on precisely the same day on which he was born. The Erkel Theatre opened its gates in 1911 as a people's opera house, and already then the theatre's most important message coincided with Zoltán Kodály's famous statement many years later: let music belong to everyone. November 7th is a significant date in the calendar of the Hungarian people. On this day, 203 years ago, was born the brilliant musician to whom we owe our national anthem, and this is also the day on which we were forced to celebrate the occupying Soviet empire for over forty years. A national tradition and the internationalism that wished to obliterate the nation. This is a truly dramatic date in the history of our nation, and is therefore worthy of being Hungarian Opera Day.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Winston Churchill was once told that the increasing cost of the war meant there was a need for austerity measures, primarily within the field of the arts and culture, because - as he too was told at the time - they play no strategic role. Churchill's response was simply this: "Then what are we fighting for?" Today there are also voices that say that it is a waste to spend money on theatres, sports and culture while, and this is the case, the whole of Europe is struggling with a serious crisis. All we can say to this is also: then what are we fighting for? What do we struggle and work for every day? Many indigenous peoples have no economy, no GDP, no import-export balance and often use no kind of currency, but they hang on tooth and nail to their own culture and unique arts, and insist on maintaining their own traditions. They instinctively hang on to what makes them different from others and do everything possible to protect the spirit of their own community.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It was said of Mihály Székely, the renowned Hungarian opera singer, that when he approached the stage he always stopped and bowed his head, as one might do in church in front of the altar. And if we think about it, the theatres, opera houses and concert halls are all temples of national culture, where the spirit and intellectual greatness of the nation is made apparent. This is what really determines a nation's size, significance, quality, smallness or greatness. We Hungarians have always looked on ourselves as a cultured nation. And on an occasion such as this it perhaps does not sound immodest if I say that we can be proud of the fact that the Budapest Music Center opened its doors this spring, that a few days ago we reopened the reborn and world-class Liszt Academy of Music, that we are inaugurating the renovated Erkel Theatre tonight, and that the Opera House and Castle Bazaar will soon also be renewed. In addition, experts are also working at full steam on the plans for the new museum quarter in the Budapest City Park. I would like to think that these are signs that Hungary is not only gaining strength, but is slowly, step-by-step, also regaining its greatness.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

We often hear, and it is true, that Hungary is today performing better economically, but the economy, and it is a good idea to keep reminding ourselves of this, is not a goal in itself. It is rather a strong foundation based on which we may put increasing attention and economic strength towards everything that goes beyond our simple material needs and which gives meaning to our everyday struggles. A steady foundation that provides the nation with the strength and opportunity to present its intellectual greatness and to propagate the unique, unparalleled and magnificent nature of its art and culture.

It is with respect that I am able to report to the art-loving general public that we have succeeded in saving, renovating and returning the people's opera house to the people. May you find pleasure in it!

(Prime Minister’s Office)