Sisi’s cultural escape – The Hungarian State Opera House.

A beautiful lime stone façade has sat at the centre of Budapest since 1884. After a 130 years, the building and the interiors are practically unchanged, featuring a neo-renaissance idea born out of the talent of Miklós Ybl. The only person ever to have managed to impress the jury, when the decision to follow public trends was made in 1873. It took nine years to finish the building.

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On the opening night, on 27 September 1884, Emperor and King Franz Joseph visited for the first and the last time. His royal box remained empty for the rest of his life. His love was directed towards hunting and fencing and his poor wife – Sisi – could not use the royal box without his presence. She chose a different one instead, located on your right hand site in the auditorium, the one which would allow her to see and be seen, if she wished to.

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There was only one condition placed when the thought of building the opera in Budapest was born. The building could not be grander and bigger than the opera house in Vienna. Miklós Ybl probably had never visited the opera house of Vienna, but he knew what the requirements were. He did his best to make sure that his project will make Budapest proud. And indeed, it did.

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The dominant colour of the interiors is red, sharing the space with gold, which equals luxury. Red velvet spreads out through the boxes, hanging from the walls and providing comfort for the public buttocks. Even the chairs downstairs share the distinctive royal red. They are 130 years old, and have never been changed, as it would ruin the acoustics. The celling fresco and lavish bronze chandelier add to the relaxed atmosphere of the house of music. Each level of the 3 floor audience is decorated differently, but still creating a picture of harmony and richness.

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The buffet hall and the foyer feature a low celling, surrounded by oak panels. The corridor for smokers cordons the foyer. The oak here is darker. It has drunk smoke of the cigars for decades. Lovers could hide away in the thick smoke to steal a kiss or a hug, away from prying eyes of everyone else. The paintings of Dionysus’s birth and upbringing by György Vastagh sit on the richly decorated ceiling. The round ceiling is decorated with Károly Lotz’s monumental cupola fresco as well. The Apotheosis of Music features baroque gravity, but somehow harmonizes with the renaissance with ease. The lute-playing Apollo dominates here, surrounded by Olympic gods, graces, muses and demons listening to his music. A massive chandelier is lowered twice a year, to replace its expired bulbs.

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One of the most impressive features of the Opera is the grand staircase. The main branches lead directly to the ground floor auditorium entrances. The low ceiling prevents the visitor from seeing how the space provided for the Opera was used. The surprise reveals itself when the guest reaches the auditorium. After leaving a small space of the grand staircase, one can truly appreciate the magnificent use of the space the Opera House was provided for.  

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Next, the visitor can admire the Red Salon, with its oak panels and sour cherry-coloured drapes, situated on the first floor. Do not miss the magnificent royal staircase, that provides a private entrance from the carriage ramp in Dalszínház street. There is a temporary exhibition of the theatre’s memorabilia and the room itself is one of the grandest in the Opera House.

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We have finally reached the boxes situated on the second floor of the auditorium. The view from Sisi’s box was incredible. No wonder she decided to choose that one. She was a true lady, lover of art, music and sculptures.

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At the end of the tour, you can chose a treat – listening to one of the singers working at the Opera, performing for you. The performance is short, but shows incredible acoustics this building has. The singer sung his heart out for us and made a perfect closure to this incredible tour.  

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Practicalities:

To get to the Opera, take line 1 of Budapest Millenium metro and leave at stop Opera – you will see the building immediately.

About the languages, tickets prices and the times read here.

Operaház

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