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A night at the opera

Walking along the elegant Andrássy Avenue, you’ll see beautiful maple trees and elegant villas on both sides. This atmospheric street is also the setting of the Hungarian State Opera. This stunning opera house was built in the late 19th century as an architectural and acoustic tour de force. Many Hungarians still love spending an afternoon or evening in style, enjoying a classical music concert or a ballet performance.

The opera house was built between 1875 and 1884 at a time when the country was going through some major changes. Buda and Pest had just merged into a single city and Hungary was becoming increasingly independent from Austria. Built to measure up to the opera houses in Vienna, Dresden and Paris, the Royal Opera of Hungary, as it was originally called, soon developed into one of Europe’s leading cultural platforms.

A majestic opera house

The renowned architect Miklós Ybl designed the opera house in the Neo-Renaissance style with several Baroque elements. Expectations for his latest work were extremely high in the late 19th century, and during the festive opening in 1884 the curious crowds knocked down the porters in their rush to catch a glimpse of the brand-new building. Story has it that Emperor Franz Josef, who financed the huge project, was not overly impressed with the results.

Like it or not, this is clearly a majestic building. And a visit to the opera brings you in good company: the façade features statues of the world’s greatest composers such as Liszt, Mozart, Beethoven and Verdi. 2 imposing Sphinxes guard the main entrance to the spacious foyer, and famous Hungarian painters have decorated the interior with stunning frescos and mosaics. The auditorium has a classic appearance, with red being the primary hue in the fabrics used for the seats and heavy curtains.

“Story has it that Emperor Franz Josef didn’t much appreciate the opera house he financed.”

The auditorium

Visiting an event

The Hungarian National Opera offers an extensive programme in this superb setting, including classic operas and ballets like The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky or Madame Butterfly by Puccini. Attending one of these events is an amazing experience. Don’t worry about the ticket prices as they are very reasonable. The evening shows are always popular among elegantly dressed locals. We recommend the Sunday matinee, where you’ll see dapperly dressed elderly ladies and gents coming to enjoy the music after lunch.
The elegant opera house

Photo credits

  • The auditorium: Jason DeRose, Flickr
  • The elegant opera house: Darren Barefoot, Flickr