On 9 November the venue’s first première night will take place with a performance of the one of the world’s most famous Hungarian operas, Béla Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, together on the same evening with János Vajda’s one-act work Mario and the Magician. For the opening première, the two leading roles will both be sung by Gábor Bretz.
Opened in 1911 originally, the Erkel Theatre is Hungary’s largest theatre building. Its history is intertwined with the golden age of Hungarian opera performance, with such luminaries as Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, Éva Marton and Grace Bumbry all having graced the stage of a building whose acoustics are considered the stuff of opera legend.
After being shuttered up for more than five years with its fate in doubt following closure in 2007, the Hungarian government last year provided 1.7 billion forints in grants for the theatre’s renewal, allowing the Hungarian State Opera to renovate the Erkel Theatre to a standard suitable for holding performances.
Much of the refurbishments took place behind the scenes, with soloist and shared dressing rooms and common areas refitted and expanded. In addition, the stage’s technical equipment has undergone significant modernisation, while the building’s service systems (water, plumbing, heating and ventilation) have also been brought up to date.
Audiences will now step into an auditorium with a completely new look, while every effort was made to ensure that the building's fantastic acoustic properties remained unchanged. A factor that will greatly increase comfort is the modern ventilation system installed in the seating area. Although the number of seats has been reduced from 1,935 to 1,819 by refitting the rows of seats for more comfort, the theatre nevertheless retains its rank as the highest capacity theatre in Hungary – and in Eastern Central Europe.
It has been 25 years since a student of the Music Academy first walked the boards of the Erkel Theatre in 1989 in the role of Juliette in Gounod's Romeo et Juliette. The perfromance of Andrea Rost created a huge sensation and soon set her off on a campaign of international conquests that took het to the opera houses of Vienna, Paris, London, Milan, Munich, Berlin, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. The soprano now takes to the stage in her always favoured surroundings of the Erkel Theatre to sing a programme of works she has compiled herself, in the company of some of her closest colleagues.
It has been 40 years since one of the most outstanding figures in Hungarian ballet, Gyula Harangozó Sr. (1908 – 1974). He is acknowledged as a genius character dancer even four decades after his death. His characteristic esay steps, his facial expressions and ideas were all engraved in the memories of those who were lucky enough to see him. Coppelia, Promenade Music, Shéhérazade and The Miraculous Mandarin are all treasures in the history of Hungarian ballet that must be preserved. The company of the Hungarian National Ballet wishes to commemorate the Master, who passed away 40 years ago, with the Coppelia series of the 2014/15 season.