The Hungarian State Opera has canceled a third of its performances of the stage musical “Billy Elliot” for this month and July amid criticism by a pro-government media outlet that the play could turn Hungarian boys gay.
In a statement, the opera said that the press reports had resulted in “reduced interest” and that 15 out of the 44 performances would no longer go ahead.
The musical, adapted from a 2000 British movie of the same name, tells the story of a boy who grows up in poverty and finds refuge in ballet.
The criticism in Hungary has been driven by Magyor Idok, a news website that openly supports right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
In an opinion piece published on the website this month, a contributor named Zsofia N. Horvath accused the State Opera of disseminating “rampant gay propaganda.”
“The propagation of homosexuality cannot be a national goal when the population is getting older and smaller and our country is threatened by invasion,” the article said.
“Our government is trying to … help family prosperity with a lot of tools and money, so it’s inexplicable and intolerable that a leading state institution is going against this intention and that it makes quite a few youngsters miserable, who would have not gone this direction by themselves.”
Asked whether the piece reflected the views of the website, a representative referred CNN to the editor, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A day after the article appeared, the site published a response from Szilveszter Okovacs, director general of the Hungarian State Opera, who criticized the piece.
CNN has asked the Prime Minister’s office whether Orban or his staff had any role in the website’s campaign or whether it supported it. A representative has not responded to those questions but previously referred CNN to the opera’s statement.
CNN’s Judith Vonberg contributed to this report.