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Bátori Mária was withdrawn from the programme of the National Theatre in 1860 once and for all and was not revived in its successor, the Budapest Opera House. However, the overture was detached from the corpus of the opera and started to live a life of its own. Following its first production on 9 November, 184160 it became very popular as an independent concert piece. From the entries on its performing material and from the play-bills and Pocketbooks of the National Theatre a continuous history of performance covering almost one hundred years unfolds.61 Further data make it probable that the overture was performed in Brussels at the end of the 19th century62. Interestingly, the overture was often performed as the beginning of plays after the defeat of Hungary in the War of Independence to keep national consciousness alive. The overture thus gained a political context. On 1 January, 1856 it introduced the performance of Károly Kisfaludy’s play entitled Kemény Simon; the fact that the people attending the performance sang Erkel’s Himnusz [National Anthem] at the end of the performance makes it evident that it was less of a festive occasion than that of a kind of national festival.63 Another similar occasion (1859) was related to the commemoration of Mihály Vörösmarty’s death the annual revival of the play Áldozat [Sacrifice] lent the feast a cult-like character.64


The overture went separate ways from the rest of the opera both with regard to its dissemination in performance and to the transmission of its written sources towards posterity. Since it was composed a year later than the opera itself, the overture is missing from the autograph score of the opera. The complete set of orchestral parts survived in the music collection of the National Theatre. There it was not united with the performing material of the opera but kept separately so as to remain mobile; this material was on-lend relatively frequently for performances of the overture in the Hungarian capital and in country towns.

In spite of its former continuous use the performing material in NSZ remained unknown for the Erkel research so far, and a contemporary manuscript copy (RP) held in the National Széchényi Library was considered the only source of the overture. It came to Budapest in 1954 from the estate of György Ruzitska (1789–1869), a conductor and composer at the theatre of Kolozsvár. Erkel’s lines of dedication to Ruzitska and the date 1845 can be found on the title-page of the manuscript copy (see facsimile 10) and his additions can be sporadically recognised in the musical text as well. The performing material held at the Music Academy of Kolozsvár was most probably copied from this score.

The whereabouts of the autograph score of the overture are unknown at present, but the version that it represented can nevertheless be reconstructed from other sources. Ervin Major’s catalogue of Erkel’s compositions (see note 10) mentions a further copy of the score in the former music collection of the National Conservatory in Budapest (ZNY); this source has also remained unresearched so far. Its most characteristic trait is its strikingly rich articulation that distinctly reflects a later taste and can hardly have originated with Erkel. The main difference of this source from RP lies in the twenty-five bars by which this score is longer; moreover, it shows a cut which does not precisely coincide with that in the Kolozsvár version. There are further significant differences between the two scores.65 It is decisive for the stemma of the sources of the overture that NSZ comprises the longer version even if the passage concerned was later omitted from several part-books. Accordingly, NSZ and ZNY must stem from a common early version probably originating in the lost autograph score. From all this a special case of transmission can be surmised; it was the early version of the overture as contained in the autograph score that had spread over time and space, whereas the later version of RP authenticated by Erkel in his own hand apparently did not get beyond Kolozsvár.66

Before Erkel composed an overture to it, Bátori Mária had begun with a brief orchestral Introduction anticipating the music of the mourning duet- in the finale of the second act (see the Appendix I). When he decided to write an overture, he extended the original opening of the opera by eleven bars and included it in the new orchestral piece as a slow introduction. This procedure makes it obvious that he intended the overture to replace the orchestral introduction of the opera, and, indeed, the Introduction is omitted from most orchestral parts of NSZ, albeit inconsistently. Erkel did not delete it from the autograph score. Although the overture was found in several part-books intended for operatic performance, it cannot be claimed that through the composition of the overture the Introduction was revoked as an alternative beginning for future performances of the opera. There is no doubt, however, that irrespective of the present-day performer’s decision the alternatives represent two different dramatic ideas. With the Introduction quoting the finale the opera begins in medias res, whereas the transfer of this musical prophecy to the opening of the overture practically removes this musical symbol of recognition at the moment of the fulfilment of the tragedy from the dramatic action, and by casting it among several other motives of the overture quoted from the opera subordinates it to absolute musical form.

Hardly anything is known about the history of genesis of Bátori Mária. The only factual information at our disposal is the dates at the head of each of the two volumes of the autograph score; accordingly, Erkel started the first act on 30 March, 1840 and the second act in beginning of July. At any rate, the autograph reveals unambiguously that the dates mark the beginning of copying and not that of composing; in spite of several compositional emendations and a large number of deleted sections that would no longer enter the performing material, the manuscript preserves its character of a fair copy. It was due to haste that Erkel relied on a copyist to help write down certain repeated sections; some entries in pencil were added by another unknown hand (e.g. introducing alternative notes in the vocal parts). In two instances where the autograph is incomplete, Erkel refers to a certain “score copy” but this score did not survive. It may be presumed that this lost source was made as a fair copy of Erkel’s often illegible handwriting. From the minor but distinctive differences between AU and NSZ one may conclude that NSZ was prepared from this copied score rather than from the autograph. Erkel on the other hand seems to have conducted from the autograph for a while or perhaps throughout the decades during which the opera remained in the repertory.

The music to be played by the banda is included in AU in the form of a two-stave guida, which is not only incomplete but also differs from the surviving material of the banda. (Because of its fragmentary form, the guida is included in the critical notes and is replaced by a modernised version in the score.) AU is the only source of the German translation of the text of the opera, which has presumably been made for an unrealised Vienna and Berlin tour of the National Theatre in 1853.67 (The German translation is included in the Libretto part of this edition, whereas Erkel’s meticulous changes of prosody carried out carefully to adapt the vocal parts to the German text were excluded.)

A copy of the score comprising the first three numbers of the opera (ZO, see facsimile 11) constitute an interesting addition to the two main sources AU and NSZ. The pertaining orchestral parts also survived (ZSZ). Since this set of sources was preserved in the music collection of the National Conservatory in Pest (which had been founded by the Music Society of Buda and Pest, an important organiser of large-scale concerts at the time), it is very probable that the score and parts were copied for concert performances. This assumption may be substantiated by the fact that the part of the opera they contain is almost identical with the “Introduction” which was a favourite number in contemporary concert programmes (see note 59).

The contemporary instrumentation of the music for the banda in an opera rarely survives because the score for the on-stage military band is usually elaborated by local orchestrators. Bátori Mária is in a fortunate position since both the score (BP) and the parts (BSZ) of the banda have survived (see facsimile 4 and 5, the score of the banda is published in Appendix VII). There is no reliable information concerning the orchestrator but based on one’s familiarity with contemporary operatic practice one can safely presume that this person was not Erkel himself but some musical factotum at the theatre. The score and the parts were evidently written at different times since the scoring and the names of instruments do not exactly correspond. One can be sure that both of them were prepared later than the first performance of the opera. This emerges from the differences between this set of sources and the guida in AU on the one hand and the orchestral parts on the other (most parts of the banda double the orchestral parts throughout). Since the play-bills of Bátori Mária normally record the name of the military band hired for the night, we can be sure of the participation of a banda in most performances from the very beginning on. The name of the band is only missing from the playbills between 20 December, 1843 and 11 February, 1845 but even this does not necessarily mean that a banda was not employed. Therefore, it may be assumed that there had been one or more early orchestrations for the banda material which have been lost.

The principal group of sources of Bátori Mária are supplemented by some late manuscripts not used for the present edition, such as the transposed versions of Aria con Coro (in No. 1), Romanza (No. 4) and Aria (No. 8), which were handed down as part of NSZ. The entries in it testify that the late vocal part material of Quartetto con Coro (No. 3) was used at a concert organised to celebrate Erkel’s eightieth birthday. In fact, the parts were probably made for this occasion (see note 59). The former music collection of the National Conservatory houses the piano score of the opening chorus of the second act (No. 8) which shows a third vocal part entered later; the complete choral part material pertaining to it also survived. This new version was evidently made for a concert performance sung by the girls’ chorus of the Conservatory. One of the reasons of its being omitted from the present edition is its occasional and non-theatrical nature, the other reason is that regarding the third vocal part and the piano accompaniment the authorship of Erkel cannot be substantiated. At any rate, this variant proves that some sections of Erkel’s works not only lived longer on the concert stage than in the theatre but also that they must have been sung more frequently than we learn from the sources that have been explored so far.

Apart from the vocal sources the libretto of Bátori Mária survives in four purely textual sources; in two manuscripts used as promptbooks (SK1 and SK2) and two printed sources (L1 and L2). L1 and SK1 were made for the première whereas L2 and SK2 were prepared on the occasion of the last revival in 1858. SK1 is the only source without dating, however, several entries point to the fact that it was in use as a promptbook from a very early time to the 1858 revival. SK1 is especially valuable for it has heretofore been unknown in Erkel research and contains several text variants which are not included in other sources68. It is by nature closer to the performed version than the contemporaneous printed libretto. The libretto contains minor – mainly purely prosodic – changes to the text by Erkel and all the elements missing from L1 but included in AU, such as the Cabalettas in Mária’s arias No.4 and No.8 and the short entry of the men’s choir at the end of the first act. (See chapter Einlagen, Singers, Revivals on Coro No. 5 in the present study). SK2 contains the words of István’s insertion aria (Aria con Coro, in No. 1) which appear in SK1 merely as an insertion in pencil, and the new Duetto (Appendix II). L2, which originates from the same period, was evidently intended as a drama for reading rather than a text to follow the opera from, since it differs considerably from the performed version in several places. Strangely enough, several text variants emerge in L2 which had previously occurred only in SK1 (see facsimile 12). L1 contains the first version ending of the opera with the words of the final chorus. The text of the final chorus is missing from SK1, only the words of the preceding duet and recitativo are retained with some sections deleted, which reveals the stage practice before 1858. Moreover, Mária’s words of farewell were entered later and, as has been mentioned before, are available exclusively in the final version of the finale.

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