The National Theatre is located in the Millennial Cultural Center, on the Pest side of Rákóczi Bridge, next to Palace of Arts. By the designs of Mária Siklós construction began in September, 2000 and the first rehearsals for the opening plays were held in January 2002. The opening ceremony in March featured the iconic Hungarian drama “Tragedy of Man” by Imre Madách directed by János Szikora.
The theatre is divided into three functional parts. The central area includes the main theatre hall with 614 seats and a studio stage. This is surrounded by the service area for visitors and the backstage area. Besides stairs two panoramic elevators also grant access to these areas. Cloakrooms are located downstairs while the theatre bar is on the first floor. The second and third floors offer a scenic view over the Danube and Buda.
Interior design is dominated by blue, gold and bronze colors and natural materials, such as limestone, granite, wood, wool and glass. Wall painting in the auditorium was made by "stucco veneziano" technique. In the entrance hall of the studio theatre we can find a unique glass floor mosaics while the walls of its hall are decorated with glass and golden mosaics. The facade is decorated with sculptures of the Nine Muses and 14 reliefs of great figures of Hungarian acting: Zoltán Makláry, Lajos Őze, Erzsi Somogyi, János Rajz, György Kálmán, József Bihari, Erzsi Pártos, Sándor Pécsi, Miklós Gábor, Antal Páger, Mária Sulyok, Elma Bulla, Kamill Feleki and Margit Dajka.
The area in front of the main entrance resembles a ship reaching into an artificial pond with the symbolic ruins of the old National Theatre in the water. The park in front of the theatre building is decorated with life-size sculptures of respected Hungarian actors in their legendary roles, e.g. Hilda Gobbi, Manyi Kiss, Éva Ruttkai, Kálmán Latabár, József Tímár, Tamás Major, Imre Sinkovits, Margit Lukács, Lajos Básti, Imre Soós and at the entrance of the park Klári Tolnay and Zoltán Latinovits welcome visitors.
There is hedge maze and a ziggurat adjacent to the theatre near the Danube. The tower symbolizes the Tower of Babel and the seven rooms inside is a reference to the seven rooms in Hungarian composer Béla Bartók’s opera “Bluebeard’s castle”.
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Over the decades there have been more homes to the National Theatre.
The first building constructed from 1837 to 1837 in Kerepesi Street (today 1 Rákóczi Street) opened as Hungarian Theatre of Pest and it was renamed just later in 1840 to National Theatre. Then in 1875 it was remodeled and extended, however, in 1908 it was closed and in 1913-14 pulled down due to fire and life safety issues.
Meanwhile, the theatre settled into a “temporary” home at People’s Theatre in Blaha Lujza Square until building a new one. After 56 years there, in 1965, that building was also demolished as building the new underground line M2 resulted in structural problems. The theatre moved to a new temporary home to Nagymező Street (today known as Thália Theatre) and then to the building of Hungarian Theatre in Hevesi Sándor Square for long decades, until 2000.
The question of the National Theatre had been a top issue ever since the demolition of the building in Blaha Lujza Square. A new site was chosen in Felvonulási Square first, however, construction did not start.
In 1988 two new locations were selected in the Castle District and Erzsébet Square. Most applicants submitted designs for the latter one but construction was postponed again for budgetary reasons.
The story continued in 1996 when the Governmental Bureau of National Theatre was established. The Bureau chose the second highest ranking design from among the applications submitted in 1989 for its economical concept. Construction works began in 1998 in Erzsébet Square but it was put on hold the same year by the new government and a new site was chosen. The change was accounted for by environmental and transportation implications.
In 1999 a new bureau was fomed under the management of Comissioner György Schwajda, who assigned Mária Siklós to design the theatre first in Városliget then changing to the current location. Despite debates and objections, especially by the Budapest Chamber of Architects for the lack of an invitation to bid, constructions began in 2000.
György Schwajda and his contribution to the cause is commemorated by his sculpture in the park around the theatre.
Universities and parks on the two sides of the Danube The bike trip from the university campus to Kopaszi levee lets you discover the riverbanks crossing the Danube twice. Riding along the river you will a beautiful spa, a university building that dominates the riverside, significant cultural spots and probably the most popular park of the city.