Over the course of the Opera’s 135-year history, there were never any developments that compared to the opening of Eiffel Art Studios. However, a long time has to pass until the opera’s employees can take over each of the rooms in the gigantic complex. To help them, and to help the audience, the more important areas and rooms will be named after greats of the Hungarian Opera.
The pathways located at the side of the Studios are named after two directors who defined the institution’s image in the second half of the 20th century. Tóth Aladár Road will be located on the side facing the Transportation Museum, called Diesel Hall. The legendary director Aladár Tóth was at the Opera’s helm from 1946 until 1956 and did everything he could to ensure that the genre reached not only the privileged, but also the masses. Erkel Theatre was linked to the Opera under his leadership. The pathway on the side facing Kőbánya is named after Miklós Lukács, who was Opera director between 1966 and 1978. This period saw an expansion of the Opera’s repertoire: in addition to the performance of numerous Hungarian and foreign contemporary pieces, the program also featured pre-classical works. After being isolated for so long, a number of famous personages visited Hungary, and the Opera’s performers finally had the chance to put their ability on the world stage.
There are two separate buildings on Tóth Aladár Road. The one located closed to Kőbányai út will house the operations centre, named after Pál Tolnay, who was the technical leader of state theatres for more than two decades starting in 1926. We owe a number of stage techniques to him. Behind the building stands the Tivadar Márk Costume Storeroom, where thousands of opera costumes will finally be housed in a spacious location. The building is named after the greatest figure in Hungarian costume design. For close to fifty years, Tivadar Márk was at the head of the Opera’s costume department, in accordance to which he also designed costumes for many theatrical productions and films. According to plans, the park surrounding the building will be developed in the spring of 2021, which includes a vineyard and a rose trellis. This will be named after Zoltán Kodály, who sought shelter in the Opera building during the siege of Budapest.
The part of the building complex handed over last will be the former train station located behind the Art Studios. This will house the Miklós Radnai Training Station. Plans include using the station to hold courses for solo singers and orchestra musicians as well as children from the local district. The fifty-seat room will also be suitable for holding chamber music concerts. Not only did Miklós Radnai interrupt his career as a composer and critic to become director of the Opera, he also gave up his teaching position at the Academy of Music.
Upon entering the enormous Eiffel Art Studios hall, your gaze is immediately drawn to the newly renovated steam locomotive. Number 327.141 was built in the 1910s for Hungarian State Railways, and it is drawing both its tender and dining car number WR 2354, which is used to house Orient Restaurant, reminiscent of the turn of the last century. The teak wood-covered dining car was manufactured in 1912 by the rail car manufacturing plant in Nesseldorf (today’s Kopřivnice in the Czech Republic). The Miklós Bánffy Stage is located to the left. It is named after the most versatile leader in the Opera’s history. He started writing plays when he was eighteen, a number of which were staged by the National Theatre. His time at the Opera saw the premiere of Bartók’s first two theatrical works, The Wooden Prince and Bluebeard’s Castle. The new theatre stage can seat an audience of more than 400, making it equivalent in size to the Opera stage. It is equipped with modern technology and will be used both as a rehearsal hall for a number of premieres.
Two large rooms have been built opposite the Bánffy Stage: Ferenc Fricsay Studio and Sándor Hevesi Rehearsal Stage. Fricsay is one of the most famous and internationally renowned Hungarian conductors of the 20th century. After some years at the opera, he conquered the world’s stages, from Salzburg to Berlin. The studio serves not only as an orchestral rehearsal hall, but is also a perfect venue for making audio recordings. The plan is to record the first CD with Plácido Domingo conducting. Sándor Hevesi, the namesake of the home stage, reformed Hungarian opera production in the 1910s. His novel direction of Mozart and Verdi pieces were definitive productions for a very long time.
Two staircases lead from the hall to the first floor. The one on the right leads to the János Feketeházy Visitor Centre. This is where the tours of the building complex start, and it also houses the Transport Museum’s exhibit. In addition to designing metal structures, János Feketeházy, the prominent bridge engineer, was also responsible for designing Liberty Bridge in Budapest, the Mária Valéria Bridge in Esztergom, and the Erzsébet Bridge in Komárom. He also designed the steel roof structures for Eastern Railway Station and for the Opera’s new roof in 1912. The theatre’s upper entrance leads to the Frigyes Podmaniczky Terrace. Frigyes Podmaniczky was the Opera’s first intendant and is responsible for separating genres that had previously been connected: opera, prose, and folk play. He did a great deal in the interest of the Opera’s safe operations and of implementing modern technology.
Three well-lit rooms will be located at the end of the first floor, which are in part open to visitors. The István Kertész Pavilion will house the winter garden that employees and the audience can use to relax during breaks and intermissions. István Kertész was one of the most famous Hungarian conductors who defected in the second half of the 20th century. The room named after László Pless will be used for the chorus’s warm-up exercises. László Pless was a Kossuth Award-winning chorus master and was responsible for turning the chorus from a war-worn group to one of the best in Europe. The Polish choreographer Jan Ciepliński visited Hungary in 1931 and created numerous one-act pieces for the corps de ballet over the course of the next fifteen years. The room named after him will be used for ballet rehearsals.
Only a part of Eiffel will be open to the public. The area behind the scenes, used to house sets and workshops, is much larger: that’s where the hustle and bustle of everyday operations takes place. A theatre’s cafeteria is a central location. Ours is named after Erzsébet Házy, one of the Opera’s most popular singers. The canteen's namesake is József Gregor, who was famous for his devotion to culinary delights.
Eiffel Art Studios’ four workshops will also be named: the painting workshop for Gusztáv Oláh, the metalworking workshop for Attila Csikós, the set workshop for Miklós Borsa, and the carpentry workshop for Károly Löwenrosen. The Opera’s fourth floor was used not only to paint the rightfully famous sets, but also housed the offices of the respective scene manager. The most famous resident of the special room with its enormous ceiling height was Gusztáv Oláh, one of the most prominent set and costume designers in the history of Hungarian opera. His successor, Attila Csikós, who passed away in 2017 used the same office; a number of his sets are still in use to this day. For many years, Miklós Borsa supported the company’s work in his position as technical director. Károly Löwenrosen is the odd one out: he was never employed by the Opera, and worked in the North Vehicle Repair Facility as a carpenter. “Uncle Charles,” as he was popularly known, brought football back to Hungary after a visit to England, and refereed many games into his elder years.
The Art Studios also house one more named room: József Járay Hall. Járay was the best athlete among the Opera’s singers: as a young man, he boxed, was a decathlon champion, and won more than 200 medals. The sports track was the first thing that the Opera leadership ceremoniously inaugurated. On 23 February 2020, a plexiglass sign designed by Mátai és Végh Kreatív Műhely was placed on the wall before a commemorative futsal round tournament was held with the participation of six teams (in addition to the Opera: the National Theatre, the Parliament, a selection of Actors, Strabag, and KÖZTI).