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Szeged National Theatre

Hermann Helmer, Ferdinand Fellner

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1883 | Opening performance


(detail)4. 22. 1885 | 18 months after the opening the theatre burned down


(detail)2.10.1886 | opening

(detail)80. 's 20. century | renovation
April 1978 - October 4, 1986: Large renovation and modernization; foyer extension; new staircase (Arch. Maar Marton)


(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

(detail)Rudolf Krausz |architect

Worked in atelier Hellemer and Fellner, favoring the style of Baroque revival architecture in early period  , in course of time shifting to Functionalism. 


More theatres

Maar Marton |architect


The plans of the theatre building were ordered from the well-known Vienna-based architect pair in the Monarchy, Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer. Based on the plans realized in 1882 the construction works of the 1800 seated theatre building were begun by the Jiraszek and Krausz building firm.

Used stage designs were purchased from the Ringtheater in Vienna for the purposes of the new theatre in Szeged. The upholstery was done by craftsmen Steifmann and Mihály Léderer. The frescoes of the roof (allegorical figures of amuse, tragedy, dance and music) were painted by Gusztáv Mannheimer. According to contemporary descriptions the Szeged National Theatre had received a bluish ash colour whitewash outside, while the interior walls were painted red and gold. In 1883 the Schlick iron factory produced the iron curtain and in June the chairs manufactured by the joiners Nándor Szmollény and Antal Böhm were placed in the auditorium. In August the chandelier arrived, which was made by the Geschomer firm, made of bronze, and a gas lighting probe could be held as early as September. The statues of the Muses were placed on the façade.

The festive opening was held on 14. October 1883, when Franz Joseph, the emperor, also visited the town. The programme was: Prologue by Lajos Pósa and Utolsó szerelem (Last Love) by Lajos Dóczy.  The building, according to some sources, cost 440 thousand silver Forints. Its lighting system, heating, technical equipment was in conformity with the technical level of its age, but the monumental auditorium, seating almost 2000 spectators would have required a much bigger stage, foyer and other service and transport areas.

The stage fire in 1885 destroyed almost the whole auditorium. The flames shot up on the stage on 22nd April, after the morning rehearsal started, and nothing could stop them from spreading. There were no casualties but the theatre burnt out. The original contractor, the firm by Jiraszek and Krausz managed to reconstruct the building in no more than half a year, which was reopened in October 1886. The capacity of the interior space, richly decorated with frescoes and gilt, was reduced to 1500, yet the relative proportions of the stage and service areas did not change significantly. The upholstery work was made by Mór Seifmann and özv. Lengyel Lőrincné. The roof panels of the auditorium were painted this time by Ármin Kern (Court Music, Peasant Dance, Children’s Fancy Outfit and Musicians). The gilding was mad by master Cott from Vienna. The plaster coat of arms is the work of Törtel, also from Vienna. The iron chairs of the auditorium were produced in Berlin by the firm Hyan. Finally the carpentry is the work of György Juhász and Ferenc Rainer. The roof was lifted which made the whole building look more sophisticated, richer.

Several flaws made during the hasty rebuilding were revealed only when, after closing up in 1978, the theatre was dismantled to the skeleton. The overall reconstruction, partly due to this, dragged on; and the grand theatre of the three-department company, which played drama, opera and ballet, opened again as late as in October 1986.

The theatre retained its eclectic style abounding in gilded and stuccowork ornament, and the three-storey auditorium with rows of boxes remained almost the same, though the number of seats decreased again (750). The spatial system of the lobby-foyer underwent considerable changes, where the replacement of the old wooden floor structure made it possible to increase the inside heights, to make new breaches of floor. The old stairs with separate flights on each level gave way to new staircases, one on each side. Opportunity for expansion was primarily given in the basement, but the stage was also taken care of through some „wall-adjustment”. The forestage and the cramped backstage were joined to form one space, its floor space grew from 256 sq m to 396 sq m (with an acting area of 210 sq m). This made it possible to build in a double revolving stage (diameter: 13m/9 m). The orchestra pit came to consist of two huge elevating stages; by lifting them the acting area can be expanded by 50 sq m. The upper machinery is of a mixed type: there are traditional manual fly facilities and also point hoists, which counted as a novelty at that time. The basement expansions considerably increased the spaces for scenery storage and other service spaces as well, and, among other things, a new ballet rehearsal room added.

The theatre building with its remarkable Neo-Baroque façade and harmonious proportions fits perfectly in the line of palaces on the Tisza bank built after the devastating flood of 1879.   


Architectural description

The free-standing theatre was built according to plans of the famous Viennese theatre architects Fellner and Helmer. The curved main facade of the one-storey building is articulated with five open axes. On the ground floor can be seen the rounded entrance gate in the middle axle, beside that two arched doorways. In the plane wall, parallel to the street line two statues were placed in two wall niches. The ground floor is grouted horizontally, covered by broaded surface. The two floors are separated by a dividing cornice. Over the storey openings a broken cornice runs around the building. In line of the axis in the attic circular openings and statues decorate the closing wall.

The theater building is actually a relatively uniform, closed mass. From the mass of the theatre emerge to two sides the staircase from the middle projection. As we move further the ground floor auditorium and the stage will come. They were placed under a common roof; the mass of the flyloft is elevated symbolically higher than the mass of the theater.



Tags: Fellner and Helmer


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