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Czech students criticize Orban ‘inappropriate’ presence at Prague State Opera reopening

Prague, Czech Republic – A group of Czech students from the Academy of Performing Arts (AMU) have published an open letter criticizing the presence of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the reopening of the Prague State Opera, on January 5th.

In the letter, the students slammed Jan Burian, director of the National Theater – under whose jurisdiction the opera falls – for inviting the Hungarian PM at the official gala ceremony marking the reopening of the opera, one of the most prestigious musical and cultural institutions in the Czech Republic.

The gala ceremony, held after an extensive three-year reconstruction of the Prague State Opera exactly 132 years after it staged its first performance, was also attended by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis.

Although a number of other heads of state and government had been invited to the Prague State Opera reopening, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, most of them denied the invitation or were unable to attend, at the exception of Viktor Orban.

The AMU students claimed that inviting Orban was “extremely inappropriate” considering the Hungarian PM’s most recent crackdown on the cultural scene and free theaters in Hungary, which critics have seen as the latest expression of Orban’s Kulturkampf and attempt to stifle artistic freedom and independence.

According to them, Burian should have used his position to express “solidarity” with Hungary’s theater scene instead of “making a mockery” of all his colleagues and students both here in the Czech Republic and in Hungary.

Jan Burian replied by saying that the reopening ceremony was a special occasion to which many domestic and foreign public figures had been invited regardless of their party affiliation, and that it was not his role to comment on the suitability or unsuitability of invited guests.

On the night of the event, Viktor Orban had been booed and jeered at by a group of protesters upon his arrival in front of the opera house.

Main photo credit: Blesk:Michal Protivansky/CNC