Our quest to tick off Budapest’s top ten most opulent buildings as recommended by DK Eyewitness, continued with a trip to the opera. Built in Hapsburg rule, the Opera House opened in 1884 as a rival those in Paris, Vienna and Dresden and celebrated the Magyar Millennium, remaining a symbol of national identity ever since. The illustrious interiors feature seven kilograms of gold and the large sweeping stair case provided a perfect opportunity for ladies of the day to show off the latest fashions. Over the stage sits an enormous chandelier featuring 260 bulbs and looking up, one anxiously recalls the scene in ‘Phantom of the Opera’ where the chandelier plummets to the ground shattering over the audience…
Although our surroundings were the pride and joy of Hungarian citizens in the 19th Century, our play ‘Mefistofele’ featured a futuristic metropolis as the backdrop to Boito’s tackling of the bargain made between Faust and the devil. To start the four hefty acts, an impressive 100 strong choir of heavenly angels in blue rainmacs and space helmets goads Mefistofele that he cannot tempt Faust into a bargain. As the curtain rises on subsequent acts, a structure resembling Tatlin’s ‘Monument to the Third International‘ rotates as cast move up and down figuratively demonstrating their journey in search of a higher purpose and casting off Mefistofele’s mortal consumerist shackles. At the point where Faust enjoys the love of Helen of Troy, the two sing their aria in two cryogenetic chambers – surreal doesn’t cover it.
I’d like to say that I understood all this whilst watching the spectacle in front of me, but as both Man-child and I had neglected to read the synopsis and only had the hungarian subtitles to work with, I was quite appreciative of Steve Freeman’s review on ‘Seen and Heard International’. It’s unlikely that you’ll get a chance to see this production again for some time as the director appears to have fallen out with the Hungarian government who holds quite a lot of power over the opera. As Steve mentions ‘I’m not sure about their motivations but they might have a point here‘, I’m not sure the futuristic metropolis was a go-er for Steve.
Slightly baffled by our futuristic Opera, we regrouped at the New York Cafe – billed as the ‘The most beautiful coffee house in the world’ Entering the Neo-baroque establishment, we were shown to a table by an Allo Allo Renee-type maître d’ and presented with an incredibly extensive hot chocolate menu.
The New York Café has lived through many eras, political systems and historical turning points. Still, it has always been reborn, sparkling and occupied by those who longed for its comforts: artists, members of the nobility and commoners alike. – newyorkcafe.hu