Aug 29

The Hungarian State Opera House (Opera Nationala din Budapesta)

The Hungarian State Opera House is located in the central of the Hungarian capital city, Budapest, and it is hosted by an artistically crafted edifice, whose architecture is representative for the Neo-Renaissance style.

The architect behind the Opera House was Miklós Ybl, a representative figure in the Hungarian architecture of the 19th century, who had supervised the project until its completion in 1884 (after 9 years of work).

The institution had the pleasure of counting quite a handful of important figures of the cultural life of Hungary as part of the performing artists going on stage. Among these, Gustav Mahler and Otto Klemperer, the great composers and conductors of their generation (late 19th century – early 20th century) are worth mentioning.


The passage of time had left its imprint on the edifice in as much that in the ‘70s, the Hungarian officials had decided to begin a restoration project which would retrieve the former glorious appearance of the Opera House. The renovation lasted for 4 years, from 1980 until 1984, and the refurbished Opera House was revealed to the public on  the 27th of September, 100 years after the original opera house was inaugurated.

The Hungarian State Opera House is not mentioned on this page solely because it is relevant in defining the state and its cultural life, but also because it is a beautiful edifice, which, while architecturally designed in the Neo-Renaissance style, it also consists of Baroque influences. The decoration involves magnificent sculptural work, as well as paintings, signed by major artists such as Bertalan Szekely or Karoly Lotz.


The magnitude of the building as well as the number of people it can fit within its walls is limited so these are definitely not the characteristics which impress the public. However, there are other elements which contribute to the name the Opera House has gained: the architectural detailing and the quality of the sound. These precise characteristics are the ones to place the Hungarian State Opera House among the greatest opera houses in the world.

In front of the opera house stands erect the statue of Ferenc Erkel, the composer of the national anthem of Hungary together with the sculpture representing Frantz Ritter von Liszt, the great Hungarian composer, pianist and conductor.


Besides the opera recitals held at this specific institution, the Hungarian State Opera House also shows ballet performances. This specific institution is not opened throughout the year. Thus, if you happen to arrive in Budapest sometime between July and August, you will not have the opportunity of visiting the opera house as it is closed in this interval.

Besides the main building, the Opera House consists of an ancillary edifice, the Erkel Theatre, which is actually much larger than the principal building.


In terms of decorations, the opera house stands out due to the impressive mural work which covers the arched ceiling of the hallway. This segment of the edifice is covered with the Greek mythological figures – the Nine Muses (the goddesses of inspiration of literature, science and fine arts). But, besides the murals, the hallway is also noteworthy due to its structure which consists of a dome and marble pilasters, at which are added the luxurious chandeliers, thus the edifice conveying a feeling of lavishness. Just to make an idea of the richness of the details and of the luxuriousness of the ornaments, it should be mentioned that the main hall is adorned by means of a massive chandelier made out of bronze which reaches an impressive weight – 3050 kg.

Aug 23

The Bolshoi Theatre (Teatrul Bolshoi)

It is literally impossible to be unaware of the great Muscovite theatre, the Bolshoi Theatre. It is renowned throughout the world so it is only natural to schedule a tour at this great edifice on your visit to Russia.

The architect behind the project, Joseph Bove, has designed the edifice in the neoclassical style and at present, the artistically crafted theatre can be seen on the 100-rubble banknote.

The main building had been subjected to several renovation processes since its appearance, but the constant work conducted on the edifice goes to show that the Moscow administration has recognized the importance of the edifice and the significant role it plays in the cultural life of the city, and of the entire nation for that matter. So it is of no surprise that the theatre has become a landmark of Russia.

The most recent restoration work was initiated in 2005 and it took 6 years to be completed. The work undertaken by the contractor consisted of restoring the high acoustical quality of the edifice which had been lost when the soviet regime was instituted and Russia was traversed by an outburst of social and political change. It was during this refurbishing work that the Bolshoi Theatre regained its majestic decorative architecture.

The company which administered the theatre came into being in the 18th century (1776), but the performances were not hosted in a grand edifice, which could proudly bear the name of theatre. In turn, the cultural events were held in a private house. It was not until 1780 that the company acquired the Petrovka Theatre and extended its area of interest so as to include plays and operas.

But this location was bound to change in 25 years’ time as the theatre caught fire and was severely damaged, in as much as it had to be rebuilt from the ground. The new edifice was constructed in 1824 in Theatre Square, under the supervision of Andrei Mikhailov, the architect to develop the plan for the new theatre.

The name attached to the theatre was meant to reflect the importance of the purpose it held in the Russian community. For one, it should be mentioned that theatres were seen as being the epitome of cultural life, especially those which housed opera and ballet performances. Thus the name given was of “Grand Theatre” which in Russian translates as the Bolshoi Theatre.  The reason for which this occurred was that the two types of artistic performances were regarded as being noble, exceeding the plays (comedies, tragedies or dramas) in the degree of artistry used in putting the enactments on stage.

The Bolshoi Theatre, the national theatre of Russia, has always been regarded as an icon of Russia and it is no wonder that it had preserved this status throughout time. It is within its walls that the cultural life of Russia was formed and carried out, having maintained the traditions of Russia alive.

But most important, the theatre strives to offer continuity in the sense that all the changes that occur, from a cultural point of view, are outlined within the performances held at Bolshoi. This means that while the classical pieces are still performed on regular basis, being masterfully executed by true artists, contemporary pieces are also presented. Only the best productions will take the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre so if you have the opportunity to visit, and even more importantly, to attend to the opera or the ballet acts put together both for connoisseurs and common audiences, you should not miss out on it. The fact remains that the artistry with which the people on stage present themselves will definitely impress even those who are not knowledgeable of this art. The fact remains that beautiful things will always entice the eye.

If we have captured your attention and you are already taking into consideration the idea of visiting Moscow and this specific tourist attraction, then you will be pleased to hear that some of the tickets to the performances (20%) are reduced so as to be accessible to everyone. Another aspect of general interest is that the Bolshoi Theatre contains 2 stages: the main one and the new one.  As you have probably already guessed, tickets for the performances held on the main stage are more expensive than those from the new stage. This structure of the theatre gives the company the opportunity to address several matters, allowing it to hold performances concomitantly and thus offer some variety to its audience.

There is only one way in which the theatre can be described and that is as a “living and breathing organism.” Why? Because its evolution goes hand in hand with the evolution of the society, and not just the Russian society. The artists and the pieces presented at Bolshoi Theatre have different origins and the reason is simple: the company is dedicated to culture in general, and to Russian art in particular, pinpointing the cultural evolution of the world.