The Hungarian State Opera House is celebrating its 130th anniversary.
It was Hungarian architect Miklós Ybl, one of Europe’s leading architects at the time, who designed the Opera House in a bid to rival with Vienna’s Staatsoper.
Financed by Emperor Franz Joseph, it was a costly venture famous for its 24 carat gold embellishments and technical innovation.
“When the Budapest Opera House was built, the famous Ringtheatre in Vienna burnt down. 386 people were killed in the fire. Fire safety standards were invented in Europe at the time to avoid similar tragedies. The Budapest Opera House was the first theatre to have a fire safety curtain. The world’s first modern hydraulic stage machinery was built in the Budapest Opera, replacing the earlier, baroque wooden stage structures,” says the Hungarian State Opera’s technical director, Miklós Borsa.
Its rich decor includes paintings and sculptures by leading Hungarian artists like Bertalan Székely and Károly Lotz.
The majestic 3,000 kilo bronze chandelier, also designed by Miklós Ybl, had to be made in Germany as there was no factory in Hungary that could accomodate such a piece. As it was powered by gas, it was impossible to switch it off completely, so it became famous for the twilight it emitted during performances.
“Imagine the romantic mood in the opera house with the twilight of the gas-chandelier,” says Miklós Borsa. “Gaslight is not white. The light was reflected on the golden decorations on the walls. There were beautifully dressed ladies and hussar captains in the auditorium. It was that kind of atmosphere that Alexander Dumas wrote about in his novels and it became part of the sophisticated social life of the 19th century.”
The Hungarian State Opera commemorated its anniversary with crowds in period costumes, a gala concert and a film premiere, as well as the publication of a historical book.