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Budapest’s Opera but Ballet

Budapest’s Opera but Ballet

About a month ago, we went out to the Hungarian State Opera.

Not for opera but ballet. Which is totally different despite sharing the same stage. Ballet is the classic art form I prefer, for the delightful sight of excellently shaped bodies and royal splendour of costumes and scenery.

Opera, in contrast is a lot about bad acting, combined with forced, unpleasant and unintelligible singing with oversized performers-performing-overtime wearing circus tent. Elegance, grace and delightful lightness is what distinguishes ballet. (You do not have to agree and I might change my mind when I reach opera age.)

Ballet, is ‘moving‘ in every sense of that word, especially the romantic classics.  Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle and Sleeping beauty make me weep for the gripping beauty of sound and sight. There is a reason why they are played over and over.

Not all opera houses are the same but some are historic beauties, worth to visit for their architectural grandeur alone. I will share our visit to one of Budapest greatest attractions, just so you know what to expect and enjoy at the State Opera.

After luckily getting a ticket last minute, it turned out that we were going to see a more adventurous and modern-experimental play, called The Brothers Karamazov, which didn’t give us the breathtaking experience of Swan Lake at the fabulous La Scala in Milan but all the same stunning neoclassical architecture.


Take your seat at the magnificent auditorium and look at the impressive galleries.

Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


The Opera is a monument of love to art, dance and music. You will be rewarded with neo-renaissance opulence and be able to ‘use‘ this historic sight, which is actually quiet amazing when you think of its age. Construction began in 1875 and took almost 10 years to complete. Despite being over 100 years old it still serves and fascinates the public.

The interior of the Hungarian State Opera House. I imagined the sponsor Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria sitting at that royal box with his wife, Empress Elizabeth.
Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


If you look up, a huge chandelier illuminates a fresco by Károly Lotz.

neo-renaissance interior ceiling Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


The ceiling of the foyer.

Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


Frescoes and sculptures by Hungary’s artists decorate the interior.

Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


Vaulted and gilded ceilings, murals, chandeliers and statues.

neo-renaissance interior Hungarian State Opera House Budapest neo-renaissance interior Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


Gold was used to decorate the inside of the auditorium. During intermission the audience can walk around and explore.

Hungarian State Opera House Budapest balcony Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


On top of the Opera building are statues of the most famous composers and at the entrance to the Opera the country’s most popular musicians, Franz Liszt, the famous pianist and Ferenc Erkel, the composer of the Hungarian national anthem and first director of the Opera.

balcony Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


I loved to tour the Opera, to walk the big staircases, visit galleries and envision the sophisticated atmosphere of the ending 19th century. Elegant aristocracy, ladies in corsets and bonnets walking red carpets, men in white wing collar shirts and bow ties, opera windows turning into mysterious mirrors and… not again… SADAKO!

neo-renaissance interior Hungarian State Opera House Budapest Opera and Sadako Mirror



The Brothers Karamazov was a premier for the Hungarian National Ballet Company. And a strange mix of athleticism and stage effects, usually reserved for theatre or film.

Ballet should not be made to compete. Not with special effects from the 80s anyway. Remember the over-use of fog machines? There was constantly so much smoke on stage I was made to think I am attending my teenage disco party. The same era inspired dancers’ garments. The ugly scaffolding was the sole scenery on stage.

Karamazov testvérek Ballet Hungarian State Opera House Budapest

The music was sadly sort of secondary, not part of a total composition and only used to support particular moments. That is such a pity. Just think of the ‘catching tunes’ of Tchaikovsky or Prokofiev. Making a ballet out of Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov was not a good idea.

I demand classical fare. Tutus and demi plies and music that makes me weep.

This beautiful stage curtain should not be lifted for plain scaffolding.

stage curtain Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


Taking the Russian novel by Dostoyevsky with overly complicated plot and sub-plots and converting it into a ballet, failed to produce recognizable human themes on stage. It just didn’t work. (For me. Although I am curious how my ballet teacher would comment.)

neo-renaissance interior Hungarian State Opera House Budapest



Tickets can be bought online ( or at the Opera’s box office.

The Brothers Karamazov were sold out. Ballets sell out quickly.

We decided to test our luck while passing by the Opera, asking for ‘leftovers’ for the nights performance. Unexpectedly, they had four tickets left, all seat A category, which are the most expensive for 13000 Ft each and still a bargain, if you think about what people pay for football games. (I felt experimental in Barcelona and will write up my football game experience soon.)

It was a last minute ticket buy (one hour before the performance) and there was no chance to get into opera garb. Well aware of the time limitations, we asked about the Opera’s dress code, presenting our best looks at the ticket office, which triggered a smile and something along the line of ‘not optimal but acceptable‘.

No tie, no tail, no evening gown, no opera gloves. We are in!

inside Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


We are both blushing, not from making out. Climate control was out of control.

neo-renaissance interior Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


Acoustics are said to be third best in Europe and I assume each seat is connected to the orchestra pit. However it did smell a bit musty, so maybe that iron grid is just ventilation under the seat, generating a lot of warmth.

Hungarian State Opera House Budapest


I am sorry, if after this post, you are doubting the relevance of classical genre. You shouldn’t. Instead, share the joy.

Hungarian State Opera House Budapest

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  1. Was Ballett angeht, gibt es natürlich nicht nur Schwanensee & Co, das sogenannte “ballet blanc” der romantischen Ära oder die Highlights der Klassischen Periode. Sie stehen jeweils für eine ganz bestimmte Epoche als Spiegel gesellschaftlicher Strukturen und Umbrüche und/oder psychosozialer Befindlichkeiten. Einige Sequenzen von “Brothers Karamazov” gibt es auf youtube zu sehen. Tja, das ist mir zu elegisch. Die Tänzer haben zwar eine phantastische Technik, was eigentlich immer der Fall ist, aber im Vergleich würde ich eher den “Sexy-Trocks” Stil, favorisieren, auch wenn ich mir im Netz noch nichts angeschaut habe. Dann gibt es natürlich auch moderne Kompanien, weltweit aber tatsächlich nur wenige, die wirklich spektakulär sind.
    Es ist ja auch immer eine Geschmacksfrage. Oper als Bühnenkunst ist auch nicht gerade mein Fall, obwohl es wunderschöne Arien gibt, die einen wirklich zu Tränen rühren können und in London/Paris/New York werden phantastische Inszenierungen produziert, die sicher sehenswert sind. Da würde mich aber eher Tanz interessieren.

    Sehr sympatisch Deine Hungarian Opera Short Story.
    Und wo wir gerade beim Thema wären: Liebe Dasza, hast Du auch Deine Schläppchen mitgenommen???
    In Budapest gibt es sicher viele Möglichkeiten…..Bin heute mal nicht so streng.


    • Also, ich muss ja direkt zugeben, dass ich mich noch nicht einmal nach einem Ballettstudio umgeschaut habe. Wenn ich zufallig an einem vorbeigehe, denke ich immer, wie schon es ware wieder was zu tun! Aber wir sind die ganze Zeit unterwegs und es kommt irgendwie keine Routine auf, um sich irgendwo anzumelden. Und ein bischen Bammel vor neuer Gruppe hab ich auch.
      Ballett fehlt mir aber sehr! Habe in Bangkok Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo gesehen und auch was daruber geschrieben.So kompensiere ich mir zurzeit die Stange :)

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