Andrassy u. 22.
331 25 50 or 353 01 70
Those who live in Budapest are justly proud of their country’s musical heritage. It’s certainly no mean feat for such a small nation to have produced two of the world’s greatest 20th century composers in Zoltán Kodály and Béla Bartók. And, in such an emotive city, where you start to think that even taxi rides should be accompanied by a soul stirring rhapsody, it’s not surprising to learn that the classical music and opera scenes are flourishing here.
What’s more, local appreciation isn’t just limited to the nationalistic verve of traditional folk songs sung late into the night after a few beers. All of the orchestras and venues that existed during the Kádár years which, back then, relied heavily on state subsidies, still exist today. And that’s not because tourists keep these places afloat. Rather, that Hungarians are a cultured bunch who, by and large, have not yet succumb to the western ideal that going to a classical recital is a ‘fairly extravagant’ thing to do.
The same is also true of the opera. Unlike London or Sydney, tickets aren’t the sole remain of a select few. A royal box in the majestic State Opera House for instance costs the princely sum of £25, while the cheapest seats start at only £5. (From: talkingcities.co.uk)
The Opera House was opened in 1884 among great splendour in the presence of King Franz Joseph. The building was planned and constructed by Miklós Ybl, who won the tender among other famous contemporary architects. It was built in neo-renaissance style along the famous Andrássy Avenue. The facade is decorated with the statues of renowned composers and the Greek Godesses of art. The statues of Erkel and Liszt by Alajos Stróbl decorate the niches next to the main entrance. Ferenc Erkel was the first director of the Opera House and the founder of the Hungarian opera. The inner decoration was designed to reflect elegance and pomp. Thus the staircase is covered with marble, the walls are decorated by the frescoes of illostrious Hungarian painters, the horse-shoe shaped audience hall is fitted with red and gold and the chandellier from Mainz also contributes to the elegant atmosphere. The construction took 9 years to be completed, but when finished, the Operahouse of Budapest was the most modern one in Europe. (From: budapestinfo.org)
I have to admit, I have yet to see a performance at the Opera House. So I am obviously very under informed to make these comments. So…I’ll focus on what I did see: the lobby and the exterior of the building (access is limited unless you buy ticket for the group tour, which I believe costs more then most of the tickets to see the actual opera). Like most tourist sites in Budapest, the Hop on, Hop Off bus crew is in full force outside (look for the orange). You will also find a few vendors selling trinkets. Inside (the lobby at least) is very impressive. The marble stairs and ornate wooden doors, as well as ceiling are amazing. After or before a performance, walk the cobblestone streets surrounding the hall.