If you go to an evening performance, dress the part. You won’t be turned away for scruffiness, but you will feel out of place!
Miklós Ybl was one of the great Hungarian architects. He designed the Várkert Bazaar, parts of St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Rácz Thermal Bath — but the Hungarian State Opera House, built in 1884, is perhaps his finest contribution to Budapest.
Set off the beautiful Andrássy Avenue, the opera house is approached by streets paved with small wooden cubes. Once the whole avenue was paved in the same way and traversed exclusively by horse and carriage; now this romantic image is the preserve of the opera house.
Its style is neo-Renaissance, with a Baroque twist. The façade is adorned with statues of muses and opera greats, celebrating the links between European and Hungarian music. So statues of Liszt Ferenc and Erkel Ferenc stand alongside those of Mozart and Puccini. It is a heritage the opera house deserves: Gustav Mahler was once its artistic director.
Within, the decor is opulent. The marble columns and gilded vaulted ceilings show the wear of time, which lends them an old world air. The auditorium is vast, seating 1300 people and illuminated by a huge chandelier that weights over three tonnes and was crafted in Mainz especially. A magnificent fresco of the Greek gods on Olympus provides a worthy audience for the spectacles.
The opera house was designed with precise attention to its acoustics. A recent study rated its acoustics as the third best in Europe, after only the Scala in Milan and the Opera Garnier in Paris. Sometimes third place isn’t so bad.
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