The barely 38 years old world-famous Baritone has already performed almost in every opera house of the world. The audience of the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, has seen him starring in two operas, still, his homeland has always worked as a magnet for his heart. He wants to live here at his homeland, in the service of his family, his nation and his broader home. This time, our talks with Levente Molnár is neither about his career path, his fulfilled vocation, or the spotlight, nor even about the forthcoming performance of the opera Bánk Bán (The Viceroy Bánk), – instead we are interested in the source of his deep faith, his fear for his homeland that warms him so vehemently. Why does he call the Hungarians a “wonder nation” receiving the task of organising the International Eucharistic Congress for good reason and not by a simple chance? He believes that hardships are given by God to strong people only.
Photo:Vera Éder /Coopera
- “Whenever I’m singing the aria “My home, My home”, sometimes I go weak in my knees, since it hurts so strongly, and matters so much. I live for these moments” – as you said in a recent interview. How do you feel yourself, what kind of thoughts cross your mind while singing the most famous aria of the Bánk bán
Let me explain my feelings, what I’m going through while preparing myself, my mind prior to entering the stage: quite frankly, I feel I’m going to pray in public. I’m going to say a prayer that has been created in a blessed moment, making its presentation, interpretation a huge responsibility. The aria “My home, My home” is favoured not only for its sweet melody or its nice lyrics: it has reached its goal, therefore has become a hit as well. To put it simply: anyone living without faith, but with a Hungarian consciousness, is driven closer to God. On the other hand, the ones living with religious faith, but without any national consciousness, are definitely going to meet the values of Hungarianness. I’m ready to sing “My home, My home” only if I feel the butterflies in my chest. Singing means a deadly serious mission for me. I want people to be shaken up, so that they can realize what a huge burden it is to live up to the model, where God, the homeland, and family is of high importance, and never ever any of them is to be jeopardized. This melody beautifully reflects the Hungarian determination for faith, and the Hungarian’ free choice of becoming a Christian. Believing in God is our invisible shield, however this shield needs caring. It’s Bánk Bán who can give a helping hand. He uses the words God and Home connected to each other in a consecrated and respectful manner. One without the other…, we well know where it leads.
Faith is alike to the immune system
- Do you mean that national sentiments are conceiving through God and prayer?
Definitely yes, thereby making it even more solemn. We are a religious nation, full of faith. Our nation is a “wonder nation.” We were the first in the world, who, in 1568 at the Parliamentary session in Torda, Transylvania – with a step far ahead of our time - issued a decree on religious freedom, thereby officially recognising that anyone, upon its own free will is allowed to practise religion freely, regardless to the type of religious denomination. We can also be proud of our sport successes, our inventions, but most of all of our sound testimony on faith and acceptance. The Hungarianness is living in peace with all these varied faiths – since the essence is all the same: love, respect, and acceptance. In terms of being in a close relationship with God, Transylvania and the Hungarians are the strongest ones. How many of our priests, Archbishops stood up for the justice of faith and nation, representing it even at the cost of their lives, at the risk of martyrdom!
- As it was stated by Archbishop Áron Márton in Kolozsvár in 1944: “In protection of the truth, in service of love and persecution, prison is not a shame, but rather a glory”…
The survival of Hungarians living beyond borders would be unimaginable without faith. Those remaining in the homeland are able to stay with the help of their faith only. They believe in God. They believe that the Hungarian nation is able to survive only with God’s help. Faith is amazing. Faith ensures self-confidence. Many times I’m asked: where does your self-confidence come from? I do have roots that are full of faith. That is the reason. Faith is alike to the immune system. It’s not enough just to learn a dialect, legends, jokes, and history, but faith should be mastered as well. This is what really keeps one on board. This is what is immortal. Should our roots be well nourished by faith, the soul does not get ill easily. With the help of faith we are able to solve our problems in a way that puts aside our ego. Overstepping the difficulties can be far easier with a strong faith, which also enables to minimize the troubles. Faith is an invisible shield against evil. Faith drives us towards the good, simultaneously develops us to be pretty good at reading people. Many say of not being religious, but having a faith instead. Well, it’s true that trying to approach the truth individually is already a nice step forward. We, The Székelys are warrior people, having made testimonies on our faith many times already, and stood up for it anytime, even with scythe and hoe, if needed. If something works well, we let no one convince us on the contrary.
Photo: ARTSTART4YOU Egyesületek
Emergency in the air
- When did you first experience this depth of the faith you are talking about so enthusiastically?
Upon birth, normally, and with some luck, we receive a healthy mother and father, a mother tongue, and education. But there is a difference how one manages to live the weekdays, how one learns the way of celebrating. How one is raised by the parents, how often is taken to the church services, or is talked about Jesus, God, and existence, on top do the parents tell about faith at all? I well remember my childhood, when at the age of 4-5 I was looking for answers for an important question, I forced my mind to stay still, enabling me to listen to the slightest voice, to the quietest, most peaceful inner impulse, since it always gave me the answer. Later on, as the man is growing up, the world is seen with a different eye. It could happen that not the wise and gentle voice is heard, resulting in trying new ways that may not lead to the right direction. To put it simply, the right track is extremely narrow, easy to get off the rails. Indeed, we do have our slips, but these mistakes are for us to learn from them, to develop our personality and to find a return to God. We are getting tests from God on purpose, to always end up with a return to him.
- Have you got such returns to God?
I have never turned away, not even in thought, I have always had a sound faith. However, I have passed over some reinforcements. I would mention here the experience when we were about to crash by plane. I was not yet 25, and following some short flights, this was my first longer, overseas direct flight with Malév from Budapest to New York. There was no problem with the take off, but right after Vienna one of the engines stopped. The plane started flying unstable, the on-board luggage stores opened, everybody was panicking. I took out the Csiksomlyó Virgin Mother’s picture from my wallet, and immediately felt calm, more precisely the acceptance of the situation I was gifted by the Virgin Mary. Since we were still flying with full tanks – our captain kept us updated all along – Vienna did not give us the landing permit, thus we returned towards Hungary. It took about an hour to land. The pilot released the fuel in order to avoid an explosion just in case we might crash into the ground. Finally he managed a smooth landing. It was a pretty traumatic experience, topped with the fact that following the landing we were not allowed to leave the plane for about two more hours, while the full checking up was going on.
- I think upon return your first trip led you to Csíksomlyó…
I have always attended the Csíksomlyó Pilgrimage. Being away from it has always been out of question. I need to be there at the Virgin Mary of Csíksomlyó. I do have every reason to be grateful to Her.
Photo: Bence Hegedus/4K Media Studio
Here at home everything is important
- What has the Pontiff’s Csíksomlyó visit meant to the Székely people?
For over two thousand years this was the first ever visit of a Pope to Transylvania, and most likely no papal trip would occur for another couple of hundred years. Pope Francis’ visit has been of particular significance, since he is well aware of the fact that we are the ultimate eastern bastion of the Catholic Church. A well-grounded reason for being the strongest as well. Once at the border defensive line, nowadays likely the same way, the Székelys are standing at the front line in protection of the faith. What a huge responsibility on our shoulders! Thus, for such a significant nation as the Hungarians are, a real steadiness must be presented at all times.
- Shall we take it as a moral obligation for the Eucharistic Congress as well?
Well, it’s really something that Budapest has been appointed to host the World Congress. Indeed, the best has to be made of it, further on testimony should be given on our faith to the world. We have to show our presence both by faith and spirit here in the Carpathian Basin. This will also prove the world what a fantastic nation we are, and our soul is far broader than the Carpathian Basin itself is, and is not linked to any geographical territory. Currently we are going through hard times, but cannot ignore that hardships are given to strong people only.
- How has your life been going on since last spring?
I’m working, and in line with my talent I do all my best to help the local cultural life. Together with my partner, Viktória Mester we have recorded several videos, and in the one, titled “Prayer – God save the Hungarian”, even our little daughter, Aina is singing. We had a song on Covid as well, a funny one that has been loved by many and viewed on Facebook by more than a million. Unfortunately my Facebook account has been deleted, I still wonder why, but haven’t got any reasoning so far. Nevertheless, both videos can be viewed on YouTube.
Together with the ArtStart4U Associations – the Art Core Value and the Class Value Associations – upon receipt of government support from Hungary-, it’s over 6 years by now that we yearly organise a 10 day free Master Course in August. The course venue is Transylvania, and is available for a mere hundred high school students, with board and lodging, including flute, violin, piano, cello, clarinet and singing classes. We managed to organise the course last summer as well, unfortunately without Hungarian instructors, but with local masters from reputed Transylvanian universities.
A further new project that we could also launch with a motherland support, is the Hungarian singing lessons. At the Patrium Christian University of Nagyvárad (Oradea), a singing faculty has been set up last September with a possibility for 10 scholarships, the lessons of which are held in Hungarian language. Hence the best equipped singing faculty of the Carpathian-basin has started its operation. Our students are really talented, having achieved remarkable successes already in their first semester exam.
Together with the Co-Opera, we organised the “Schubertiáda online – Songs, quintettes, poems, proses in memoriam Franz Schubert” musical and literary evening on the 19th December 2020 that was broadcasted from Pócsmegyer (Hungary). This location has been purposely chosen to commemorate the only site in Hungary, where Franz Schubert, upon the invitation of the Esterházy family, resided in person in 1818 and left the place with nice memories.
A new opera and a film are on their way as well. I do have sound ambition and ideas on what kind of opuses, dramas would be the best to make the world be more familiar with the Carpathian-basin.
Photo: Vera Éder /Coopera
- Shall we say that you have found your place and duty even in difficult circumstances?
It is really interesting what this unprecedented situation has got out of me. I have started to look for its positivity. I discovered again God’s intervention. It was about two-three years ago when I decided, and I really took it seriously, to work in the Carpathian Basin. I wanted to return home as soon as possible, and accept performing engagements abroad up to once or twice a year. Previously it was the other way round. Then the pandemic interfered. All my contracts have been terminated, forcing me to start my activities at my homeland. To tell the truth I do enjoy it. I feel at home in the Co-Opera company. The hard job we are doing is well proved by the Bánk Bán performance that has raised the interest of Germany and Verona as well. This role is extremely important for me. I put in all my body and soul.
- Besides your family and your mission awareness, what else has called you home so strongly?
When staying abroad, whatever happens around me, nothing hurts, and there is no pain, since nothing is ours. It’s better to be at home because here everything hurts. Here we are sad if something goes wrong, we fight for making things better or to develop our homeland, since it is ours. Because this is a matter of the nation. It is a matter of faith. At home everything matters. And every loss, every disappointment is painful. From this bittersweet pain derives all the beauty and good for the next generation.
Hopefully faith and science, hand in hand will lead the world out of the troubles, and our life will be led again by personal meetings. In order to achieve this (as well), it is important and necessary to listen to that very and soft inner voice. Let’s pay attention to this voice, since help arrives from that direction.
Written by: Gabriella Varga
Photo: 4K Media Studio, Co-Opera, ARTSTART4U Associations