Right around the corner from our flat was a stunning building: The Hungarian State Opera House. From the moment I saw it, I told Rambo that he’d have to take me on the tour. I’m such a sucker for old buildings.
The building of the Opera House was commissioned and paid for by the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef. He made one stipulation to its design – that it could not be bigger than the Opera House in Vienna (where the Royal family lived).
This chandelier is the original from the late 19th century – they just updated it to have electricity. It used to weigh 2 tons, now it weighs 3 tons. Fun fact: they change lightbulbs the same way they did when it was candles. They take about 16 very strong men and lower it (taking about 4 hours), replace the bulbs, and raise it back up again.
The royal box had very particular rules – one of them being that only the Emperor and guests were allowed to be seated there. Rumor has it that Emperor Franz Josef only attended one opera here and he left before it was over. Apparently he was very upset that while this opera house was not bigger than the one in Vienna, it was much more beautiful. However, when his wife Empress Elizabeth came to the opera without him she was not allowed to sit there. So she chose this box as her personal box. BTW – it has terrible views of the stage, but it does allow for just about anyone in the theatre to see whomever is seated there. They reckon she chose this box because it was more important to be seen at the opera than it was to actually see the opera.
Ybl Miklós was the great designer of this opera house. He was so in awe of his design that he wouldn’t allow a single thing to be changed in the building process – not even something as small as the doorknobs.
The Hungarian State Opera House is really one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. We didn’t find out until the guided tour, but tickets to the opera are quite reasonably priced. If you’re not into opera, you should at least check out the guided tours to see the building. They have some interesting stories about the building process and the old-fashioned aircon that they had (among other things). If you want to stay for a small performance or take photos you have to pay a little extra.
Maybe one day the world will hear Little J singing here?