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Budapest Puppet Theatre

alias Modern Theatre, State Puppet Theatre, National Theatre's Chamber Stage, Medgyaszay Cabaret, Mesebarlang Puppet Theatre, Modern Theatre Cabaret
Historia del teatrosuplementodatos técnicosEquipamiento histórico

eventos importantes

(Detalle)1949 | The first performance of the new State Puppet Theatre

(Detalle)1948 | The first reconstruction

(Detalle)1971 | Reconstruction 1971-1976

(Detalle)10.12.1976 | Opening of the new building of the State Puppet Theatre




Architectural description

The Budapest Puppet Theatre was designed and built by Adolf Láng between 1875-1877.  The theatre is located in Andrássy Avenue no. 69  providing space for artists and sculptors. Originally it worked as an Art Gallery and when the present museum of Art Gallery was opened it was connected to the Hungarian University of Fine Arts standing nearby. By the plans of a well-known architect Géza Márkus; the theatre occupied the basement. Géza Márkus planned the well known Cifra Pallace in Kecskemét and the Erkel Theatre in Budapest.  

The building has been rebuilt several times: in 1908, then in 1917 according to the plans of Rezső Herquet and Elek Falus. In 1948 a large scale reconstruction was made in the theatre room in the basement. Puppet stage and puppet workshops were established; by this time the auditorium could receive 312 people. The theatre was reconstructed between 1971 and 1976 according to plans of Mária Siklósi.

Adolf Láng (1848-1913), an architect of Austrian origins,  was born in Prague, moving to Hungary relatively young. One of his most important work which he realized at a rather early age (28 years old) was this palace in Andrássy Avenue. The high-level evoked Venetian Renaissance was recognized in the building of the puppet theatre. Láng taught for several years in Prague and in Bucharest; then he returned to Budapest. Here worked together with the experienced Antal Stein. He taught at the Vienna Technical University as well. His architecture was characterized by excellent use of the Renaissance and later Baroque style.

The one-story-high neo-Renaissance-style palace reflects the impact of Palazzo Bevilacqua of Verona. The building has seven openings; the middle five axes are slightly retracted from the façade. Accordingly, the resulting side axes are pillar-like and they are in line with the existing street façade.

The openings upstairs are arch-ended, while the joints have double Corinthian pilasters. The central wing has arched ended openings, in the second and fourth openings are lower than the others and aedicule-ended. Above the larger openings rich ornamentation can be found. The first floor facade is articulated by openings framed by Corinthian pillars.

The ground floor and the first floor are separated by a broken cornice, on this a balustrade runs all along. The rusticated base storey is set off against the piano nobile. A wide stair in the middle axle leads to the main entrance. The entrance’s three central axes follow the articulation of the piano nobile. The arched openings are articulated by podium-like, rusticated, mannerist characterised columns. On the top of the building a broken cornice with balustrade run around.



The building, which has accommodated  numerous theatres and has finally become home to the Budapest Puppet-theatre, is number 69 in what is once more Andrássy út after being at times renamed Sztálin út and Népköztársaság út.

It was built by the National Hungarian Fine Arts Company and designed by Adolf Láng, who also planned the 'old' eclectic style Műcsarnok. The competition for the design attracted 85 entrants. When the exhibition premises moved to the new building in Hősök tere the Andrássy út building continued in use under the name of Plasticon as a place where artists, and especially sculptors, could exhibit. The Industrial Art department of the National Museum functioned in the basement, and theatres moved in later.

First of all, Sándor Faludi opened his 'anti-cabaret' under the name of Modern Theatre Cabaret on 11 October 1907. Jenő Heltai and Ferenc Molnár were the artistic directors of the theatre, and Albert Szirmai the musical director. This was where Vilma Medgyaszay began her career. The basement, where the theatre lodged eight steps below street level, was altered to the plans of Géza Márkus. In 1908 Endre Nagy took over the theatre under the name of Modern Theatre and rebuilt the basement area. His songs and skits caricatured political and social events, giving birth to Budapest literary cabaret.

On 29 August 1913 Vilma Medgyaszay took over the direction and ran the theatre for two years under the name of Medgyaszay Cabaret. In 1915 Artúr Bardos re-christened it Modern Stage Cabaret. It was rebuilt in 1917 to the dessign of Rezső Herquet and Elek Falus, and on 24 November 1918  the Andrássy út Theatre took it over under Artúr Bardos. 

From April 1920 the UNIO Theatrical Company Ltd. operated the theatre. Tamás Emőd was the artistic director. From 1924 to 1925 the Chamber Theatre of the National Theatre played in the building under the direction of Sándor Hevesi, after which the Andráassy út Theatre returned, directed by Elemér Wertheimer. Until 1933 they performed mainly cabaret, chansons and one-act plays, and from 1934 full-length comedies. Between 1937 and 1944 the premises were once again the Chamber Theatre of the National Theatre, now under Antal Németh. In his final year, Németh opened the National Hungarian Royal Theatrical Direction and Production Academy here with thirty-five pupils, and from 1945 to 1948 the Chamber Theatre of the National Theatre returned under Tamás Major.

In 1948 extensive work was put in hand in the theatre premises in the basement of the Andrássy út building. A puppet stage and puppet workshop were created, and at the time the auditorium seated 312. The Mesebarlang ('Fairy-tale Cave') puppet theatre, which had been functioning since 1947, moved in under the name of State Puppet Theatre, and in 1949 was nationalised. Its first performance took place in October 1949. There were three tales in the programme: the Chinese tale Spring Flower, the entr'acte Kalács (Brioche) and Macskalak (Cathouse). In 1951 Sztárparádé began the series of performances for adults which characterised the work of the Puppet Theatre for years to come. From 1958 it was a national institution, and its golden age came under the 33-year directorship of Dezső Szilágyi. The style and dramaturgy of its performances were in the tradition of street puppetry.

While Szilágyi was director, the building was renovated. This took place between 1971 and 1976, to the design of Mária Siklósi, and during that time the company performed at 10 Jókai tér. In the course of the reconstruction the ground floor was converted and a new seven-storey building on a central courtyard, with a cellar, was added to the former. The theatre was given an independent rehearsal room, a studio stage, premises for sound equipment, and separate flies. The capacity of the auditorium was increased to 378. Public spaces and a common room for actors were made in the converted part of the old theatre.The new part accommodated the auditorium and the stage, together with the workshops, scenery stores, rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms and offices. In the foyer (also suitable for exhibitions) were the buffet, decorated with ceramics by the industrial artist Mariann Bán, and the cloakroom. The wooden wall on the stairs to the upper floor was decorated with the glass of the industrial artist György Z. Gács. Another feature of the Puppet Theatre was that seats in the auditorium were so designed as to be foldable with one movement, so that even the smallest were able to see the stage. The stage, 220 square metres in extent, was given flooring adaptable to special requirements and fitted with sound equipment. After modification it had become the most modern and largest puppet theatre in Central Europe.

The company was able to take over its new premises on 10 December 1976. From then on the building in Jókai tér continued in use as a chamber-theatre and a centre for puppet theatre training courses. In 1992 Dezső Szilágyi retired, the State Puppet Theatre became the Budapest Puppet Theatre, and the company divided into two. One part continued the work of the Budapest Puppet Theatre in Andrássy út under the direction of László Villányi and Iván Koós, while the other part, under the composer János Novák, established the Kolibri Theatre in the Jókai tér building. In 1994 János Meczner took charge of the Budapest Puppet Theatre and set the company on the road to international fame.



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