Iván Fischer’s New Opera ‘The Red Heifer’ Fights Anti-Semitism in Hungary
This opera has been composed on a notorious 19th century incident - the 1883 accusation in the Hungarian village of Tiszaeszlar that Jews had killed a Christian girl...[an incident in the Hungarian village of Tiszaeszlar, where Jews were accused of killing 14-year-old Eszter Solymosi] in 1883 Some 15 Jews faced trial. They were acquitted, but the blood libel persisted...And Fischer...underline[s]: « The same responses, stereotypes and petrified, unreasonable prejudices appear nowadays as if we were back in the Red Cow Inn in Nyíregyháza in 1883. Following in the footsteps of Gyula Krúdy, who wrote a beautiful book on this subject, I too do not endeavor to be objective. There can be no objectivity in the blood libel case. The main topic of the opera is not the court case itself, but rather the ‘psychological mystery’ (Krúdy), how the conjecturers of the showcase trial won 13 year-old Móric Scharf over to be their crown witness.
Móric Scharf, who as a child had accused his father and his companions of murder, was interviewed 45 years later, in 1927. Scharf said he had been severely tortured and threatened and felt he had been used by the anti-Semitic county lords for their political purposes. After the verdict he moved abroad and returned to the Jewish religion. »
You'll notice, though, that the "Red Heifer" is a reference to the "Red Cow Inn", not the heifer that affords cleansing from ritual impurity.