Emil Petrovics was a prominent composer for the stage in the third quarter of the 20th century. His three operas and his ballet were very successful in Hungary and abroad. The three operas, rather different in character and size, made recognition by their accomplished and individual musical language, continuing the achievements of Alban Berg, their path-breaking use of Hungarian prosody and their dramatic qualities. His primarily vocal musical interest made him to compose, beside his operas, an oratorio and nine remarkable cantatas; nevertheless, his instrumental output is also notable. In addition to his composing activity, Petrovics played an important role in the music life of Hungary as teacher and opera director, too; moreover, he was fulfilling a mission for decades by popularising music as a member of the jury of a widely-known television quiz.
He was born at Nagybecskerek (Zrenjanin), Yugoslavia (now Serbia) on 9 Februar, 1930 and he died in Budapest on June 30, 2011. He studied with Ferenc Farkas, Ferenc Szabó and János Viski at the Liszt Academy of Music (1951-57). His first international success came when a string quartet won a prize in the 1959 Liège competition. But it was the one-act opera C’est la guerre that quickly established his reputation. Broadcast in 1961, the work was staged at the Hungarian State Opera in the following year and enthusiastically received; further productions were put on in Oberhausen, Nice and Sarajevo.
From 1960 to 1964 he was musical director of the Petőfi Theatre, Budapest, and in 1964 he was appointed professor at the academy of dramatic art. He became professor at the Liszt Academy of Music in 1969, heading its composition department from 1979 to 1995, and president of the Hungarian Association for Copyright Protection in 1983. He was general director at the Hungarian State Opera (1986-90), and later its general music director (1993-95). He became member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (1991) and the Széchenyi Academy for Letters and Arts (1993).
His prizes and awards
Erkel Prize (1960, 1963); Kossuth Prize (1966, 2006); Artist of Merit (1975); Outstanding Artist (1982); Bartók-Pásztory Prize (1989, 2000); the Middle Cross of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic (1998); the Middle Cross of the Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic with the Star (2005).