Hungarian National Opera has cancelled over half the performances in its production of Billy Elliot following a barrage of homophobic press from the daily newspaper Magyar Idők, which ran a series of articles claiming the production could “transform Hungarian boys into homosexuals”, the Daily Star reported, with another article claiming such shows promoted a “deviant way of life”.

Billy Elliot, HungaryHungarian National Opera’s production of Billy Elliot. Photo © Attila Nagy, Zsófia Pályi, Péter Rákossy

“The negative campaign of the last few weeks has brought down the sale of tickets massively,” said Hungarian National Opera director Szilveszter Ókovács when he announced the cancellation.

Ókovács had previously responded to the attacks in Magyar Idők, Hungary Today reported, claiming that if Billy Elliot were to be banned for being frivolous, works by Mozart and Beethoven could hardly be performed. Responding to a claim by writer Zsófia Horváth that Hungarian National Opera was failing to support the government’s “conservative values”, Ókovács responded: “by staging something that is an undeniable part of life you do not necessarily propagate it.”

“On the other hand,” Ókovács wrote, “the issue has nothing to do with conservatism. One can very well be gay and conservative at the same time.”