Part of the cultural heritage of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, the international genre of operetta received an unmistakable twist in Hungary and has become a real hungaricum. This light opera was incredibly popular in the Belle Epoque and the following decades, but spectacular performances can still be enjoyed nowadays.
This 19th century type of romcom ('operett' in Hungarian), where happy ending is guaranteed, is still popular today. What can be the reason of this? On the one hand, names of excellent Hungarian actors like Hanna Honthy, Kamill Feleky, László Csákányi or Marika Oszvald are associated with the genre. On the other hand, operetta songs are ideal to sing during small gatherings (songs of pieces like Hajmási Péter, The Merry Widow or Oh Bloody Life ('Te rongyos élet') have also become part of common knowledge in Hungary), while the stories are lovely and twisty at the same time.
It an also be stated that the story, which always has four constant sharacters: the primadonna, bajazzo, subrette and dancing comic is easy to follow and thus an operetta performace is a perfect kind of leisure.
There are 3 renovned Hungarian composers of operettas: Ferenc Lehár, Imre Kármán and Pál Ábrahám, both of them born in the end of the 19th century. (Find a short summary on the history of operetta here!)
Although attending an operetta performace is a little more less relaxed way of going out than visiting a rock concert, it can also be a great way to distract from the hustle and bustle of everady life.
Budapest Operetta Theater, photo © Wikipedia
Budapest Operetta Theater, photo © operett.hu
If you wish to explore this light and entertaining genre in Hungary, we recommend you to visit Operetta Theater (Operett Színház) in Budapest. You can start this adventure maybe with Czardas Queen (Csárdáskirálynő), followed by Land pf Smile (A mosoly országa) and Viktória. or enjoy first klezmer operetta of the world, Wedding Dance (Menyasszonytánc).
Trailer of the Czardas Queen, Budapest Operetta Theater
Mágnás Miska, Budapest Operetta Theater
You can also enjoy operetta performances during summer festivals e.g. Budapest Summer Festival and also during many regional festivals - find a great selection of the latter here.
Background photo: Hungarian State Opera House