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Music to your ears: Hungarian State Opera – Beautiful inside and out

Opera House
Budapest
Greater Budapest

During your visit to Budapest, the list of cultural programmes to take in really must include a visit to the Hungarian State Opera: besides being a venue for beautiful music, the Opera House of the Hungarian capital is also a sight to behold.

 

 

The building of the Opera House

History of the Opera House in a nutshell – what you should know

The Hungarian State Opera opened its doors to the public in 1884, at the time still under the name Hungarian Royal Opera House. Before this, Pest-Buda audiences attended musical dramatic performances at the National Theatre, but following the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the city started to develop and that theatre was no longer equipped to fulfil this role. The Opera House has enjoyed unbroken popularity since its construction, which is no wonder as it has set the bar very high in terms of both acoustics and visuals. The level of acoustics is outstanding even by European standards, and one of the greatest architects in Hungarian history, Miklós Ybl, was responsible for construction. As far as the building's interior is concerned, renowned Hungarian artists such as Mór Than, Károly Lotz and Bertalan Székely were involved in creating the richly decorated spaces. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the Opera House, with its spectacular visuals and extensive repertoire effortlessly sweeps the genre’s aficionados off their feet.

So much to see at the Opera House

There can be no doubt that the Hungarian State Opera (with a capacity of 1,300) is beautiful inside and out. This is an impartial, objective statement, as British online magazine The Telegraph also selected it as one of the world’s most beautiful concert venues. Although the Andrássy út building exuberates with Hungarian Neo-Renaissance pomp, its rich decor also displays elements of Baroque. The building boasts statues of legendary composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Verdi and Franz Liszt, but equally mesmerising is the Italian marble covering of the Foyer, the four gigantic marble statues of the red-carpeted Grand Staircase, the gilded boxes of the Auditorium or the monumental circular ceiling fresco by celebrated fresco painter Károly Lotz. You are surrounded by splendour wherever you look, all perfectly aligned to the elevated atmospheres of The Nutcracker, Bánk Bán or Aida.

 

While on the subject of sublime atmosphere and Andrássy út (which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site), you should also visit Heroes' Square at the end of the avenue, where you can meet iconic participants in Hungarian history ‘in person’.

Statue of Ferenc Erkel on the side of Opera House

Grand Opera House to become even grander: renovation of the building

Given that as many as 30 years have passed since the ‘Ybl Palace’, i.e. the Hungarian State Opera, was last renovated, the building’s reconstruction became more than overdue and is currently ongoing. The works impact five main areas: the historical decorations, the acoustics, the change in the function of the various rooms and halls, the technical wiring and the stage mechanics. For the duration of renovation works, the Hungarian State Opera has two temporary venues: Erkel Theatre and Erkel Art Studios.  

 

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