Budapest (AFP) – The Hungarian National Opera in Budapest said Thursday it was cancelling 15 performances of the musical Billy Elliot, blaming a homophobic media campaign against the production.
“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 in line with the decision of our management,” Opera director Szilveszter Okovacs said in a letter obtained by the 444.hu news website.
The musical is based on the 2000 film of the same name which tells the eponymous story of a boy growing up in a depressed northern English mining town in the 1980s who eschews boxing to pursue his passion for ballet dancing.
The musical had come under attack from the Magyar Idok newspaper, which supports right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
In an article about the musical on June 1, the paper said “the propagation of homosexuality cannot be a national goal when the population is getting older and smaller and our country is threatened by invasion”.
It went on to describe those involved in organising the musical with a homophobic slur, implying that they were seeking to turn young members of the audience into homosexuals.
Okovacs had replied to the article pointing out that the sole gay character in the original version, Billy’s friend Michael, was not in the production.
The 444.hu website said that the cancelling of the performances could have more to do with fear of political pressure than an effect on ticket sales, seeing as the other dates for the show were still doing brisk business.
Organisers plan to continue with 24 dates in the city, including one which is sold out.
In recent days the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has also been the target of a homophobic campaign in the press.
Earlier this week the pro-government weekly Figyelo published a list of researchers at the academy, accusing them of working on “gay rights and gender science”.