Hungarian opera singers claim African American identity

Fifteen Caucasian opera singers from the Hungarian State Opera signed a document claiming that they identify, in part, as being African American. Szilvester Ókovács, the Opera House’s director, asked those with roles in George Gershwin’s piece Porgy and Bess to identify as African-American in writing, in order to get around the fact that Ira Gershwin insisted that these roles only be filled by African Americans. HFP reported on the initial controversy in 2018.

We now learned, thanks to a report on the 444.hu website, that following “encouragement” from the opera director, 15 out of 28 singers have claimed African American identity. The eyebrow-raising Hungarian-language joint statement reads: “African American origins and consciousness form an integral part of their identity.”

Scene from the all-white cast Porgy and Bess

Singer-actress Enikő Bakonyi does not believe this statement to be disingenuous at all. She explained to the Index news site: “We did not lie about our genetic makeup being Black. The statement is not about this at all. We simply confirmed that African American consciousness forms part of our identity and this is true. Gershwin’s music, jazz and with it African American culture and arts form part of our shared human heritage. They are part of our everyday lives, as we enjoy culture on a daily basis, as well as music, thus this is inseparable from our identity. There is nothing insulting in this.”

Ms. Bakonyi and others who signed this statement seem to have a simplistic and warped view of identity. Tasty gastronomy, pleasurable music or culture form only one small dimension of identity. Far more important than these are socio-economic and socio-cultural realities and shared experiences that bind people together and create a sense of common identity. Caucasian actors, actresses and singers in Budapest cannot possibly share in the lived experiences of African Americans, nor are they and their families tied to the history that informs this identity. This statement and the rationale behind it seems both gimmicky and crass.

10 Comments

  1. This is absolutely disgraceful. The performance itself was disgusting enough making Catfish Row a refugee camp, especially since the Hungarian government doesn’t consider them refugees, but “migrants”.

  2. As one reflects on the history of black Americans who suffered abduction from their home land, the savage treatment by whites and inhuman conditions of the ships, and the degradation of serving their masters, there IS equal corollary in the suffering of Hungarians.

    I’m referring to one of the darkest hours starting in 1525 where Nandorfehervar, then Mohacs suffered at the hands of Sulliman the Magnificant that lasted 161 years, then followed forward by hundreds of years.

    The Ottoman Empire stamped their beliefs into the brain of every living citizen living at the time. Even blacks did not have to endure such brutality and rape of a nation.

    Therefore, there is no justification for the flippant comment that Hungarian “Caucasian actors, actresses and singers in Budapest cannot possibly share in the lived experiences of African Americans, nor are they and their families tied to the history that informs this identity”. “The statement and the rationale behind it seems both gimmicky and crass” is NOT reflective of one who has any level of appreciation and understanding of the struggles of the Hungarian Nation who have consistently suffered at the hands of their neighbors.

    • Chuck K
      Complete BS.
      You have no idea what you’re writing about and/or you are a liar, as most suffering from the “Hu nation” complex/disease are.
      – Firstly Serbs, Greeks and Bulgarians lived for 450-500 years in the Ottoman Empire, so they are the champions of suffering;
      – the “gyaur” were never slaves, they were allowed to own/work land, trade and live their own way, incl. practicing Christian religion (only in few instances some were forced conversion to Islam);
      – Turks lived in separate villages and communities in the cities, thus not affecting very much the identity of the local population, etc.
      Your most brazen lie is about “the Hu nation who have consistently suffered at the hands of their neighbors” since your ilk
      – never mentions the almost century long rape and pillage raids by the barbarian Hu tribes in Europe,
      – it also claims that Hu rule over the centuries benefited the “neighbors”, ie. the subjugated Slavs and Romanians (last in Count Àpponyi’s speech at Trianon);
      – that the Hu defended Europe, ie. they were the military power, etc.
      Perhaps you can ask the Poles or the Ukrainians about suffering…

      • Learn some history before commenting on history.

        Start with the makeup of the Ottoman army, 80% unpaid, such as sipahis or akinci. They were soldiers of fortune, whose only compensation was whatever they could drag away, including slaves. In other words, there is no correlation between occupation and slavery, but rather between being a constant battlefield and slavery when it comes to the Ottoman empire. That is why Hungarians were more affected by slavery, because starting in 1402, it became a constant battlefield, which lasted till late 1600’s. Studies show that southern Hungary, North of Serbia was completely depopulated due to Ottoman incursions by late 1500’s. Many fled, but many were also dragged away in chains and sold into slavery. The historical accounts of the siege of Temesvar for instance tell of the murder of all adult males, and enslavement of kids and young girls-women.

        By some accounts, as many as 3 million Hungarians were dragged away into slavery. It would explain why Hungarian population declined by 1/3 between 1500-1700, even as the population of Europe overall quadrupled.

        • Joe
          Ottoman army – correct, for ALL armies and wars of the period eg. the depopulation of northern France by 100 Years War, Bavaria by the 30 Years War, Ukraine/Polish lands, etc.
          Murder of all /males – start with the Old Testament through Carthage, the Crusaders/Jerusalem and Beziers, to Mi Lai.
          Hungarian population declined by 1/3, as the population in all above examples declined, in some by 90% – Beziers, but there weren’t 3 mil Huns in theses lands to start with.
          Point is – Huns suffered like all affected by prolonged war, but still incomparable with the total enslavement of the Africans.

      • James Eliason says:

        @Observer – well said!

  3. One cant make this up!
    By that token all who have listened to Hu music or eaten a lot of gulash and palacsinta can claim to have Hu identity and eg. claim entitlements, jobs (not necessarily singing) and residence to start with.
    Everybody who’s been scared or distressed can claim asylum right without questions.
    And anybody can claim anything one feels like…

  4. Don Hermiston says:

    And the nonsense just continues. Liberalism, Cultural Marxism, guilt-ridden Europeans, please find a cure?

  5. Have you ever heard of Hamilton? How about Heimdallr and who played him?
    In Norse mythology, Heimdallr is a god who possesses the resounding horn Gjallarhorn, owns the golden-maned horse Gulltoppr, is called the shining god and the whitest of the gods. Whites give opportunities to blacks. I guess you’ll be saying we stole theater from them or ship building. What opportunities do they get in their homelands the Congo, Uganda, Haiti ect.

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