Lesson #24: The Hungarian State Opera

The Hungarian State Opera is one of the most beautiful opera houses I have ever seen. It does well to represent the tradition of stunning eastern European opera houses like those in Prague and Vienna.*

The Opera House was opened in September 1884 and was designed by Hungarian architect Miklos Ybl. The (giant) chandelier in the main hall weighs three tons and the main staircase (my very favourite feature) was clearly designed for women to show off their gowns…it’s this gorgeous, huge stone staircase carpeted in red.**

The theatre itself is gorgeous and gilded and has a proscenium stage that at one-time had a rotating stage. There is a royal box in the centre of the balcony area that’s all sorts of lush and everything is all red and gold.

I managed to talk two of my travel companions (including a friend who I spent months and months trying to convince to come with me to the opera in Prague) into seeing a production of Johann Strauss Jr.’s Die Fledermaus. It was absolutely spectacular, even though it was spoken in Hungarian and sung in German, neither of which are languages we understood. The costumes, the sets, the principal singers, the performance, the atmosphere***…they were all just stellar. I would put it on the top of my opera viewing experiences.

*The State Operas in both those cities are amazing.

**For more about the history of the opera house, see here. For a virtual tour of the building, see here.

***Two things that I really, really appreciated: 1. with the exception of a few people like me and my friends, everyone was dressed up. I was wearing dress pants and a nice-ish shirt and I was seriously underdressed. Had I expected to go to the opera, I would have taken the clothes for it. 2. there was no standing ovation. I hate that the standing ovation has become the norm in the west. Even mediocre performances — and I have seen a lot of truly mediocre performances — are given standing ovations these days.

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