Budapest Spring Festival bets on Malkovich, Vengerov

Fri Mar 23, 2012 8:07am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - When money runs low, it sometimes pays to gamble, and that's what the Budapest Spring Festival did this year lining up Hollywood star John Malkovich to portray a serial killer, and Russian virtuoso Maxim Vengerov to play his violin.

Vengerov, who cancelled two Budapest performances after he was sidelined in 2008 by a shoulder injury, but began playing regularly again in public last year, showed up last Saturday for a sold-out concert in Budapest's Palace of Arts concert hall.

There has been even greater suspense about Malkovich and whether he would appear for two performances of "The Infernal Comedy", based on the autobiography of Austrian serial killer Jack Unterweger, in a one-man show interspersed with opera arias and music, but festival director Zsofia Vitezy is confident.

"There are always some risks in a festival like this, we call them the risky performances," Vitezy told Reuters in an interview this week.

"But we are through with Vengerov and the contract is signed with Malkovich so I hope nothing bad will happen...I'm sure he's going to show up."

It helps that Vitezy has "the show must go on" spirit, because these are gloomy times in Hungary, which took a bailout from the European Union and the IMF in 2008, and is in the process of seeking more loans to keep its economy afloat.

Vitezy said the budget for the festival, marking its 32nd year and supported largely by the national and local governments, was cut by a third, forcing a scramble to put on a good show while saving money. The overall budget, including funds from sponsors, is 425 million forints ($1.91 million).

Inevitably, there were casualties. Vitezy scrapped one big concert, which she declined to describe further, and pared back other events, for example by cancelling, because of the high travel costs, the participation of a Mexican percussion group.   Continued...

U.S. actor John Malkovich speaks during a news conference in Lima October 27, 2011. REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil