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Új Színház

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Lajta Béla |architekt


The building of the Új Színház (New Theatre) stands in the heart of Budapest in the vicinity of the Opera House. The venue has a rich and stormy history of names, companies, profiles, functions and architectural shapes. By today the façade with the characteristic gilded cherubs is the only element by the original creator, architect Béla Lajta (1873-1920) that was possible to reconstruct in the characteristic milieu: a vacant plot in a narrow street in a densely built-up district, which is, at the same time, an in-between territory between the elegant avenue (Andrássy Út) and the bustling axis of commerce, Király Utca.

The building, erected in 1909, started its life as music hall, on the name of Parisiana. Its auditorium was composed of the ground floor furnished with tables and chairs, the walls paved with stone and wood, a winter garden upstairs and a narrow gallery. In 1910 the building changed its name to Crystal Palace, two years later to Dance Palace. In 1919 the Vaudeville Theatre (Revüszínház) moves in and the stalls are furnished with seat rows.

In 1921 the theatre undergoes a reconstruction based on the Neo Baroque designs by László Vágó, and the present-day shape of the auditorium is formed, with boxes. After the reconstructions a series of companies work there: Chamber Theatre of the National Theatre, Kamra Theatre, Andrássy Theatre, Művész Színház. After the nationalization in 1949 it becomes Pioneer Theatre and later Youth Theatre, adapting its repertory to the new target audience.

At the beginning of the fifties the façade was reshaped again following the socialist-realist style. The stone pavement was removed, the entrances redesigned and a new name taken up: this time Jókai Theatre. Other names and companies followed: Bartók Theatre from 1971, Arany János Theatre (in the eighties), Budapest Children’s Theatre (1974). An echo of the latter is the wall in the foyer upstairs featuring a frieze painted by children. This is a poetical representation of nature, a piece quite appropriate for the place, homogeneous, still interwoven with individual tastes, a work by the students of the great school founder and teacher Márta Winkler.

Another reconstruction had to be carried out in the mid eighties, since the service areas of the building had become obsolete and the enlargement of the foyer, cloakroom, buffet was also planned. The biggest result of the work, lead by Béla Lajta, is that the old atmosphere and shape of the building could be restored. The visitor today can simultaneously admire the Art Deco façade of Béla Lajta and the Baroque splendour of the auditorium designed by László Vágó.

After the reconstructions the theatre was opened as Arany János Theatre with the play Holdbéli csónakos (Shipman of the Moon) by Sándor Weöres, on 24 January 1991. In 1994 a final name change brought the present name of the theatre, Új Színház, with a  premiere of Mihály Vörösmarty’s Csongor és Tünde on 10 July (directed by Eszter Novák).


Architectural description

Entering from the Paulay Ede Street through the windbreak we get into the lobby of the theatre; from here going up on the stairs we reach the level of the ground floor of the auditorium. The auditorium is axial, linearly confronted type; however the two balconies’ row on the first floor forms a protracted horseshoe-shape, widening the two sides towards the stage.

Due the shape of the plot the planting is not perpendicular to the line of the street. A slight angle of refraction appears at the connection of the back and main stages. 

The theatre functions were situated in a tight plot therefore the additional functions were placed to the neighbouring house’s ground floor. Changing rooms and other service functions can be found to the left in the neighbouring house. From the back a building was attached   containing the stores, the management and the rehearsal rooms. The mass of the theatre lengthens backwards and hides among the neighbouring apartment houses.





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