The magic cupboard

When I was a student at the Academy of Music, it was a favourite plan of mine to compose an opera based on one of the tales from “A Thousand and One Nights”:

The Magic Cupboard (A büvös szekrény).

The tale relates the adventures of the beautiful Suleika who charms one after another the Cadi, the Mufti and the Grand Vizier, until she finally extracts from them the order to release her unjustly imprisoned husband.

A carpenter who has also fallen under the charms of the beauty is charged with the construction of a cupboard with four compartments in which Suleika traps her suitors one after another.

The suspense is at its peak when no one is on the stage anymore, just a magic cupboard singing with despair a four part male chorus melody:

She’s gone, the sweet enchantress, maybe that our desire was only a dream… and now our dream is pursued by reality, our fate inside that closet is captivity!

I conducted the première of The Magic Cupboard in Cluj on 16 March 1943, and my opera met huge success.

In 1975, the Hungarian Television broadcasted a version of the work in one act.

In 1984, the International Opernstudio Zurich let me know its intention of playing The Magic Cupboard but with a smaller orchestra.

I was a little anxious about this application. This meant that I had to string transform a palace in a bungalow with the same comfort.

But this challenge interested me, and the original symphony orchestra was reduced to an ensemble of 13 musicians.

The première took place the same year. — Ferenc Farkas

One of Ferenc Farkas’ most performed orchestral works is the suite The magic wardrobe which he wrote from the music of his opera.