In Emmerich Kalman’s operetta La Bayadere, performed by the Budapest Operetta and Musical Theater at the Israel Opera, the plot is not the most significant element. Not because it is so silly and improbable, but because it is merely a marginal detail of what is happening on the stage.
The work revives what Stefan Zweig called The World of Yesterday, when people had nothing to do but falling in and out of love, attending parties and getting involved in intrigues. The piece also resurrects Hungary’s status as a provincial hinterland of the Habsburgian Austro-Hungarian empire. While the Viennese had a good time with Lehar and his Merry Widow at the Staatsoper, and hummed his catchy tunes, the Hungarians had to content themselves with second-best Kalman, who has no catchy tunes to hum.