The grand entrance to the State Opera House in Budapest with its statue of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt (©Daniel Korzeniewski/Shutterstock)
Amid vivid frescos, shimmering chandeliers, gilded finery, and flowing velvet curtains, many of history’s greatest performing artists appeared in Budapest’s landmark auditoriums, including globally renowned Hungarian maestros who spent years honing their genius within these ornate walls. Modern-day audiences still enjoy a diverse array of outstanding productions at these palatial venues, where dramatic architecture is always a star attraction.
Hungarian State Opera House
Reigning as the statuesque centerpiece of Budapest’s cultural spirit since Emperor Franz Joseph attended its opening show almost 130 years ago, this monumental opera hall is a crown jewel of European aesthetics, magnificently designed with hundreds of sculptures and paintings inside and out. Gustav Mahler served as director here from 1887 to 1891, followed by Otto Klemperer in the mid-20th century, and notable performers ranged from Montserrat Caballé to Luciano Pavarotti to Renée Fleming. Pest VI, Andrássy út 22. www.opera.hu
Liszt Academy of Music
In 1907 this Art Nouveau conservatory began nurturing Hungary’s most promising musicians amid stained-glass windows, gilded reliefs, and a huge pipe organ, all now gleaming brighter than ever after a recent renovation. Established by Liszt himself, the institution fostered Magyar virtuosos Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, and Sir Georg Solti, and continually hosts world-class concerts by global modern luminaries like Israeli violinist Pinchas Zukerman and American pianist Brad Mehldau. Pest VI, Liszt Ferenc tér 8. www.lisztacademy.hu
National Dance Theater
Just steps away from the Castle Hill Funicular’s summit station, this late-Baroque edifice was built as a Carmelite monastery in 1736, and then later converted into a prestigious performance hall; on May 7th of 1800, Beethoven played a concert here. After serving as a playhouse for decades, this is now a showcase for the country’s most innovative dance performances in diverse styles including edgy contemporary ballet, traditional Hungarian folk dances, and avant-garde Japanese Butoh. Buda I, Színház u. 1-3. www.dancetheatre.hu