Ernő Kondor (1881-1951)
Actor, cabaret-director, songwriter. He was born in Balassagyarmat on 26. March 1881 (according to other sources in 1884). Died at Budapest on 17. March 1951.
First he was working as a clerk in a bank, then he graduated in the Actor School of the National Society of Actors in 1904. He played in Arad, Debrecen and Kassa (today Košice, Slovakia). He resided in Paris for a short period. After he received a bigger heritage he rent a store place at 28 Teréz boulevard, set up a stage, put in some tables and chairs in order to the guest could have dinner during the show and opened "Cabaret Bonbonnière" in 1st March, 1907 as the first cabaret in Budapest. The young Ferenc Molnár wrote a prologue for the opening show a which was performed by an also young actor Artúr Somlay. Ernő Kondor was looking for young, talented writers, poets to read out their compositions on the stage. On the first evening Ernő Szép read out his rhymes. Then a couple of days later Kondor visited Endre Nagy, the young journalist who was a colleague of Endre Ady in Nagyvárad (today Oradea, Romania) to read out some of his works. Endre Nagy remembered this in his book "Novel of the cabaret": „One morning in the springtime Ernő Kondor came to me in New York Café, he introduced himself and told me that he would like to lead literature to his cabaret and decided that every evening another writer will read out some of their novellas. So he asked me if I am willing to start this line. I could go tonight, it doesn't require any extra job, its enough if I read out some of my novella which was already published before. He is ready to pay me twenty koronas for my services.”
Reading out had been postponed because one of the spectators was start yawning. So Endre Nagy told a story about one had to bring a wild donkey to the royal court in a day: „I know a method how can we produce such a fully developed wild donkey in twenty-four hours. Buy a tamed donkey, dress him in black tie and sit him to a six-koronas-seat in the cabaret. He will turn wild there.” It was a huge success. Next day the owner signed professional yawners and shouters. Since then Endre Nagy couldn't get rid of the cabaret for six years. This period became the Golden Age of the Cabaret of Budapest.
However, one month later Kondor sold his cabaret to Dezső Bálint, he himself opened a cabaret in Nagyvárad (Oradea, Romania) in Zöldfa-passage, which was opened until 1914. 0
He was a virtuoso violinist. In 1910-ben one American music company was started a songwriting contest, on which among hundreds of songs from all over the world Ernő Kondor won the Grand Prize of USD 5000.
The song "Old Gipsy" was such a big success for Kondor, that its lyrics had been translated to approx. twenty languages and its tabs was issued all over the world.
You can listen to it here in Finnish (Seija Karpiomaa - Vanha Mustalainen 1959):
In the American movie "Gipsy Caravan" the world famous singer of the Metropolitan, Giovanni Martinelli performed the song in 1931. His composition won first prize also in a song contest in New York.
He composed many of the well-knowned hungarian songs, many of them became almost a folk song, and known even today.
During the nazi era his songs were not performed anymore, he made his living from reparing fountain-pens. He died in Budapest and buried in the Kozma street Jewish Cemetery.
His sculpture, creation of Barna Búza, was erected by his widow and daughter living in London and it stands in front of the Museum of Local History in Balassagyarmat.
On 15. September 2007. the István Kertész Foundation was organized a charity evening with the performance József Sas and Mini Microscope Theater and remembered to Ernő Kondor and the Centenary of the Hungarian Cabaret.
- Balassagyarmat Localpatriot News. 1979./2.
- Hungarian Biographic Lexicon
- Hungarian Lexicon of Theatre
- Zoltán Hegedűs (index.hu): From the wild donkey to Godot. Centenary of the Budapest Cabaret