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Katona József Theatre Kecskemét

Ferdinand Fellner, Hermann Helmer

alias Városi Színház 1896-1916.11.11.
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)14.10.1896 | Opening

Opened on October 14, 1896 with the play "Bank Ban" by Jozsef Katona. 

(detail)11.11.1916 | Renaming


(detail)1922 | Reconstruction


(detail)1954 | Interior reconstruction


(detail)1961 | Reconstruction


(detail)1986 | Reconstruction



(detail)Hermann Helmer |main architect
The phenomenon of the architects Fellner and Helmer would be difficult to capture with only one building. Their work consisted of continual, although somewhat stereotypical, work in terms of style. They placed a great emphasis on achieving the technical-operational needs of theatre buildings. They created a large number of theatres (mainly national theatres) in Central Europe - Austria, Croatia, Romania, the Czech Republic, etc.More theatres

Gábor Farkas |architect
Pál Boros |architect
Ärpäd Molnär |painter, author of the text
Johann Bock |sculptor


The town of  Kecskemét had a rich theatre history before the erection of the present building. The first performance was in 1796 in the Cserepes restaurant, where the peregrine company of László Kelemen held a performance. Four years later the company returned to the town.

The renowned Hungarian playwright, József Katona came up with the plan of building a permanent theatre as early as 1826. Yet his plans of founding a Theatrum Szála were rejected at the time. In 1833 a temporary theatre venue was opened in the courtyard of the Korona Inn, which later worked as a summer theatre hall. Another theatre venue was opened in 1868 next to the Nádor restaurant not far from the present theatre building. Yet the town could not afford for another twenty-four years to build a permanent house for Thalia. Until 1894 when 200 thousand crowns could be put aside from the price of a plot sale to announce an architectural competition. This was won by the Fellner and Helmer company. The constructions were supervised by a Hungarian architect, József Krubicza. In February 1896 Pál Rakodczay won the application for the managerial seat of the new theatre. The walls of the theatre were made of bricks, with flat brick and concrete arches between the steel beams. The gallery had an iron frame with wood used only for the bordered floor. The town did not have a public lighting yet but the theatre was already furnished with it. The total construction and furnishing expenses of the theatre exceeded considerably the allocated sum (280 000 crowns). The opening ceremonies lasted for three days between 14 and 16 October 1896. Originally there were 6 ground-floor boxes, 23 on the first floor, 10 on the second, 254 stall seats, 192 balcony seats. After a year the second floor boxes were transformed into a gallery except for the two proscenium boxes. On 11 November 1916 the theatre was named after the playwright József Katona.

Reconstructions were carried out in 1922. The roof was renovated for 650 thousand crowns and the sets supplemented for 300 thousand. Between 1939 and 1941 guest companies performed in the building. The theatre was opened in 1941 with an own company. Word War II caused no damage to the building. In 1954 modifications were carried out in the interior, and the lighting system was modernized. On 5 November 1954 the a studio theatre was opened in Kecskemét, the first one outside Budapest, hosted by the Piarist High School.

In 1959 a new series of reconstructions followed: the auditorium was equipped with velvet covered seats. New lamps were placed on the corridors and a crystal chandelier with 24 arms was installed in the foyer. A water sprinkling fire-extinguisher was built in for the iron curtain and main curtain, 6 new spotlights were bought. The roof was also renovated, the interior wall decorations regilded.

A renovation of a similar scale took place between 1986-87, carried out by the firm Bácsépszer. The heating system was also modernized, the electric installations renewed. A green room was furnished in the basement. The opening after the renovation took place on 18 December 1987.  


Architectural description

The theatre building in Kecskemét was designed by Vienna's famous theatre architects Ferdinand Fellner and Herman Helmer.

This neo-Baroque palace with one storey at the main façade was built at the turn of the 20th century. The bigger and more articulated octagonal middle pavilion is surrounded by side wings which are smaller towards the back side. The middle pavilion and the surface of the side facades are horizontally pointed, with lisenes and wall niches; resembling the atmosphere of J.F. Blondel’s  pattern book.

Before the middle arched niche a tympanum were settled as mark of the entrance. Above the entrance gate a smaller dome like canopy were place with finial. 

The side facades are decorated with lisenes and niches; the corners of the windows are rounded and framed with simple borders and keystones. The building is covered with a tin-plated mansard roof, the middle pavilion and the flyloft stand out with their mansard roof masses.

From the lobby we can get into the auditorium. The auditorium is horseshoe-shaped with a two-storey balcony from the lobby side. A narrow sidestage is annexed to the stage.



DIENES, Gerhard M. et al Fellner & Helmer: Die Architekten der Illusion : Theaterbau und Bühnenbild in Europa : anlässlich des Jubiläums "100 Jahre Grazer. Graz: Stadtmuseum, 1999. ISBN 39-007-6421-2.




Tags: Fellner and Helmer


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