Before the screen there was the stage upon which actors give back to life an artistic interpretation of its experience. Live theatre in Budapest has thrived for over a hundred years through performances at its renown opera houses, concert halls, numerous cabarets and over fifty theatres. Whether it is opera, satirical cabaret shows, musicals or summer rock operas on Margaret Island; live theatre in Budapest is worth living and loving!
Hungarian State Opera
Viewed as one of the most important places in Budapest, this theatrical masterpiece was designed by Miklós Ybl to challenge the rivaling opera houses in Vienna, Paris and Dresden. Today it looks like a palace, the outside of the building showcases sixteen statues. Statues of influential composers including Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky yet the most prominent statues on each side of the entrance are dedicated to two of Hungary's most popular composers. Ferenc Liszt who was a 19th century composer stands on the right and on the left is Ferenc Erkel, the first director of the opera and the composer of the Hungarian National Anthem. Inside, frescoes, marble pillars and statues saturate the space but just wait for the main room and to be astounded with its three ton chandelier and gold ceiling. The best part about being mesmerized by this building is the show has not even begun yet!
Address: 1061 Budapest, 22. Andrássy Avenue National Theatre
Opened in 1837, this theater was first known as Pesti Magyar Színház or the Hungarian Theatre of Pest. It strived to portray the national drama and to showcase the classics of world literature. The National Theatre was transplanted after the Second world War when construction on their new theatre was never completed. Nonetheless, their show did go on. The theatre continued to perform at other playhouses like The People’s Theater, Belvárosi Theatre, the Court Theatre of Buda and the Magyar Theater until March 2002 when the New National Theatre was built alongside the Danube. Here plays a stage that despite trial and tribulation is a testament to it’s original intent pledged over one hundred years ago to portray national drama in Budapest.
Address: 1095 Budapest, 1. Bajor Gizi park National Dance Theatre
Rebuilt as a theatre, this 18th century building originally was a monastery of Carmelites and since, it's stage plays where the alter once prayed. Known then as the Castle Theatre, it's first play was in 1787 and now over two hundred years later, contemporary as well as ballet and folklore performances thrive here. This theater has been a pivotal platform for live theatre in Budapest. It was where "Igazházi" written by Kristóf Simai, the first play performed in Hungarian language occurred in 1790. It has even seen a performance from Beethoven in 1800. This theatre's ornate interior and it's gilded decoration ordain a regal setting for the continued celebration of centuries and generations of live theatre.
Address: 1014 Budapest, 1-3. Színház Street Vígszínház (Comedy Theatre)
The Vígszinház also goes by the name of the Comedy Theatre or the Theatre of Pest and since 1896, it underwent numerous face lifts to get to the Baroque facade you see today. The theatre has a unique copper roof and its beautiful exterior is rivaled only by its exquisite interior and then its spectacular performances. Attend an evening here and it’s experience stays with you for a lifetime!
Address: 1137 Budapest, 14. Szent István Avenue Budapest Operetta and Musical Theatre
The birthplace of Operettas in Budapest was originally known as the Orfeum Theatre and it was built in 1834. Since it has contributed over a hundred years of musical entertainment to the Operetta scene. Unlike the State Opera House and the Erkel Theatre which focus more so on classical sung in Italian, the Operetta Theater stages Hungarian Operettas. It’s located on Budapest’s Broadway on Nagymező Street and with 500,000 visitors a year and hundreds of shows, this theater is a giver and a taker of tickets and good times.
Address: 1065 Budapest, 17. Andrássy Avenue Erkel Theatre
Erkel Theatre, the largest public building in the city for decades is also the largest theatre in the Budapest. Like all theatres, it has transformed and transcended several different names as well as varying theater companies. It has lived as an opera, as a theatre to other theatre companies like the Opera House and it even came to serve as an art center and movie theater for a short time. In 1953, it was named after the composer Ferenc Erkel who was a Hungarian composer, director, pianist and who’s largely considered to be the father of Hungarian Grand Opera. The theatre today plays as a part of the Hungarian Opera House. It’s building is a true music box and when opened, it’s interior boasts what sure to be a gala affair.
Address: 1081 Budapest, 30. II. János Pál pápa Square Margaret Island Open Air Stage
The glorious gift of Margaret Island is in itself a stage upon which all of Budapest loves to play but once you check out its open air stage you will experience this island’s musical playground. The water tower which is hard to miss is the largest water tower in the country. It’s one hundred and two years old and it stands in the audience serving as a beacon of entertainment. Hosting an array of programs such as Operas, Ballets, Rock Operas, Musicals and Concerts of all types, there’s most certainly a show worth showing up for.
Address: Margaret Island Katona József Theatre
Offering a variety of classic Hungarian, international drama and contemporary plays, Katona József Theatre is not only one of the major cabaret theatres in Hungary but also an influential part of Budapest’s cultural scene. It was and still is a venue where a variety of live music, dance and plays of multiple languages channel the old country onto the stage. It’s name comes from the writer of the first Hungarian national drama, a dramatist and native of the town, József Katona. Located in the vibrant V. district, it offers programs with English subtitles and translation so you surely won’t be lost in translation when admiring József Katona’s general splendor.
Address: 1053 Budapest, 4. Ferenciek Square TRAFÓ
TRAFÓ is a modern day playhouse giving way to arts, music, dance as well as workshops fostering artists in training. Its name derives from the word transformer and the theater believes that their venue is not just a theatre but that it is a modern medium, an intellectual adventure and an opportunity for dance, theatre, fine arts, literature and music to illustrate life. Housed in a rather plain 1900’s warehouse, its architecture gives no contest to classical theatre houses yet it practically houses the wares of practicing artists. TRAFÓ serves modern and alternative performances that are unique and a theatrical treat. Address: 1094 Budapest, 41. Liliom Street