Billy Elliot The Musical at the Hungarian State Opera Budapest - photo: Birgitta Rudenius

A mysterious journalist, a Broadway show, and a newspaper article stating that children who watched the show were in danger of becoming homosexual - there’s a lot of controversy surrounding a recent production of Billy Elliot in at the Hungarian State Opera Budapest, Hungary.

Billy Elliot is a musical that revolves around one young boy and his desire to break free of the limits of his coal-mining town and become a ballet dancer. 

An article published by one Zsofia N. Horvath in a Hungarian right-wing newspaper said the show was guilty of “unrestrained gay propaganda.” 

The article claimed that many moments in the show, such as the scene where boys dress in women’s clothes, had the potential to be extremely “corrupting” for young people. 

The attack triggered a response from the director of the opera, who published an article in the same newspaper that argued that if gay culture was an issue in the arts, then by the same token we could also take offense with works by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Strauss. 

This sort of outrage does seem strange, as this is not the first time this musical has been performed at the state opera house (it premiered at the venue back in 2016), without incident. However, one hypothesis is that it could stem from a growing outrage towards “liberals” in the film and theater industry. Previous articles have suggested that “all areas of cultural life should be ‘purged’ of those who allow space for "liberal, globalist, and cosmopolitan ideas’” (BBC). 

And the strangest part? According to the BBC, no one has found any evidence that a journalist named Zsofia N. Horvath even exists. Regardless, the opera house has announced that the show will continue to run through July 14, and the remaining 15 performances have been cancelled in the wake of the controversy. 

However, there is a small silver lining - the previous successful performances of Billy Elliot have helped the opera company establish a ballet school.

photo: Birgitta Rudenius

About the author

Anne Luben has performed works by notable choreographers such as Donald McKayle, Bill T. Jones, Jiri Kylian, Idan Cohen, Alex Ketley, and Summer Lee Rhatigan, among others.