Past

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The Castle Theatre is the only 18th century theatre building in Hungary which still stages plays. The former Carmelite monastery was emptied on the order of Josef II, and was rebuilt as a theatre and casino based on the plans of Farkas Kempelen.

“The bells were recast as canons, the furnishings were auctioned off. The court chamber bought the main altar and presented it to the castle church in Sárospatak. A portion of the crypt below the sanctuary was used as a trap room (the dead were buried in a nearby cemetery). The cells became changing rooms. The former location of the main altar was occupied by the stage.”

The interior of the theatre became very impressive and elegant after the reconstruction: it stood out from among contemporary theatres with its excellent acoustics, gilded ornamentation, with the elegance of its furnishings, and with its heated auditorium. An audience of 1,200 could enjoy the show at the same time over its three floors, where there were 33 double boxes, 10 larger and one royal box for the dignitaries.

The Castle Theatre held its first performance on 17th October 1787, with a performance of “The Monk from Mount Carmel”.

The Castle Theatre played a very significant role in the history of Hungarian theatre. It was among its walls that the first Hungarian theatre performance was staged on 25th October 1790 by László Kelemen’s Hungarian Playing Company: they performed a piece entitled “Igazházi” by Kristóf Simai Piarist monk.

Hungarian theatre struggled a lot, partly due to the awkwardness of the German authorities and partially due to the indifference of the bourgeoisie towards Hungarian theatre, despite the fact that the greatest actors of the time performed at the Castle Theatre: Megyeri, Egressy, the Lendvay-s, Mrs Déry, Szigligeti, Róza Laborfalvy. Mrs Kántor also performed here, whose great merit was that Bánk Bán was first performed in Buda in this theatre in 1835.

A famous guest of the Castle Theatre was Beethoven, who held a highly successful concert here on 7th May 1800.

The gallery of the theatre collapsed in 1942 and the building became a military warehouse for a long time and was seriously damaged during WWII. For a long time its windows gaped blindly until it was finally rebuilt, more than once. On 13th February 1978, it reopened as a theatre; first the People’s Theatre performed in it, and later it became the Chamber Theatre of the National Theatre/the Pest Hungarian Theatre.

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