Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, home to many buildings of architectural importance. One of these is the gorgeous Hungarian State Opera House. Located on the grand Andrássy avenue, the building is one of the city’s oldest theatres and considered one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. It was designed and built by Hungary’s most famous architect, Miklós Ybl between 1884 and 1888.
Emperor Franz Joseph commissioned the project, which explains its sheer magnificence and why the details of the building are so special and impressive. Interestingly, the emperor wasn’t given much credit for his benevolence in funding the construction and in return he barely uttered a compliment about it at the opening ceremony. Actually he was only at the opening performance, and left after the first act. Of course, the rebellionist Hungarians played one of their national opera then.
The grandeur of this neo-Renaissance building begins on the outside with large balconies and statues of notable composers like Verdi, Mozart and Beethoven and more, alotgether 88 statues of famous composers and musicians..On the four corners of the building one can the the four muses, and on either side of the entrance sit the statues of the opera house’s first director, Ferenc Erkel (who also composed the Hungarian national anthem) and Franz Liszt, Hungary’s most well-known composer.
Inside, visitors can see an imposing staircase, Greek mosaic floor tiles and smooth marble columns that support the arches. Throughout the interior, hundreds of frescoes, paintings and statues by famous Hungarian artists, like Károly Lotz adorn the walls and ceilings. Many of the frescoes and statues are of Greek mythological scenes and figures, such as Olympus and the gods. The Royal Staircase and the box, where Queen Sissi sat once upon a time still existing.The main auditorium – lavishly decorated with red and gold – can hold 1,261 people under the three-ton bronze chandelier. On the centre of the ceiling the Allegory of Music is depicted on a huge frescoe, created by Károly Lotz.
Surprisingly only about seven kilograms of gold were needed to decorate the auditorium. While it looks quite old, the stage hydraulics are made entirely of metal and safety features include an iron curtain and sprinklers, securing its position as one of the most modern theatres in existence. This is the result of Vienna’s Ringtheatre being devastated by fire while the Budapest Opera House was under construction.
As one of the preeminent cultural theatres in Europe (it is third in acoustics to only Milan’s La Scala and the Palais Garnier in Paris), the standard of the performances coming out of the Hungarian Operahouse represent a high standard. After Franz Liszt and Ferenc Erkel Gustav Mahler, Sergio Failloni, Otto Klemperer and János Fereencsik have been musical directors and conductors. Both opera and ballet are performed at the Opera House with about 50 major performances annually, during the main season taking place from September through June. One of the highlights of the season is Tsaikovski’s Nutcracker played naturally always about Christmas time.