Concerts, Theatre, cinema

 
 
 

A NOTE ON TICKETS:


The simplest way to buy tickets for most music and other events is to try the ticket desk at the Rozsavolgyi Bookstore on Szervita ter.  I think the ticket desk opens at 11:00 am and is about 10 meters into the store as you walk in, in the center of the main part of the store.  They also have a variety of flyers for concerts and events.  Incredibly convenient and well worth checking out.  The business office for the Spring Festival and other official Budapest festivals is in the same building.


There are other ticket agencies scattered around as well, but having said this it’s worth noting that it can be quite hard to get tickets to many things during their subscription seasons (especially the Opera), and that a lot of orchestras don’t give regular performances in the summers.  There are many, many outdoor concerts and special performances, and information is detailed below about how to find out what’s going on.  You can also saunter up to the concierge desk of any of the 5-star hotels and ask for assistance booking tickets, not just to concerts and shows, but to sightseeing buses and boat rides, and the like.  They have been uniformly helpful to non-guests, and never ask if you are staying in the hotel (or almost never), part of which I chalk up to the fact that they are Hungarian, and part to the fact that they get a commission on the tickets they sell (I think). 


You can also try navigating http://www.jegymester.hu for online purchase of tickets to some events.  And for tickets to the Palace of the Arts, go to the English version of http://mupa.hu



WHAT SHOULD YOU WEAR TO THE OPERA OR MUPA?:


In most situations, even comparatively formal ones like dining out or going to the theater or a concert, very few Hungarian men wear jackets and ties or suits.  Slacks and a white shirt, sometimes a tie more or less does it; an addition of a jacket seems mostly to be reserved for business dealings with foreigners.  Sometimes slacks and a jacket but no tie.  Tourists tend to mistake this for the view that Budapest dress is informal, and that anything goes, and then show up in cargo shorts and a fishing vest for dinner at a fine restaurant.  The trick is to recognize that there is a sense of proper business or formal attire, it’s just not necessarily the same as yours.


Having said that, you can get away wearing almost anything anywhere.  A couple of places -- Gundel’s and perhaps the Gresham -- require gentlemen to wear a jacket, but in general there are almost no dress codes, no one will throw you out if you arrive in jeans and rollerblades.  But they will know you for what you are, a foreign boob.  And all that Hungarian you hear but don't understand will likely be comments about your attire.


To fit in, wear solid color dress slacks and an open-collar shirt, either a dress shirt or a sports shirt.  For very fancy places, like the best seats in the Opera or a very high end restaurant, Budapest is one of the few places where the extremes of the cultural circle will meet -- you can sometimes see people dressed in 1950s formalwear because their notions of fine apparel was frozen at that point in time, while in the same audience someone else will be wearing very similar clothes as a form of parody.


I guess I am suggesting that you want to find something understated and yet relatively casual for a fancy night out, or slightly more formal to your own tastes and comfort...]


Here are some useful links to calendars, venues, and events:


Overview:


http://www.budapestinfo.hu/en


http://www.budapestweek.hu/


http://www.budapesttimes.hu/


http://www.budapestsun.com/calendar/


http://budapestpanorama.hu


Operetta Theatre:


http://www.operettszinhaz.hu/index.nof?nyelvid=2&mod=ido&time=2006-06&nyelvid=2&k1=53#


Opera:


http://www.jegymester.hu/eventtime.jsp?place=3&lang=ENG&todo=month&month=200606


Palace of Arts (MUPA):


http://www.muveszetekpalotaja.hu/programok.jsp


Classical Music


Some initial quick notes:  The most significant venues for classical music are in the new and rather ungainly Palace of the Arts, on the Danube, alongside the National Theatre, and not near much of anything else at all.  The building, which still has the smell of a new car, especially around the landscaping, sort of grows on you (so does the landscaping which is now much more filled in than when I originally wrote, but still has a grass-growing-in-irrigated-clumps-in-the-middle-of-a-desert quality to it). 


But the miracle of it all is the extraordinary acoustics. Extraordinary. And the seating is comfortable, the programming somewhere between eclectic and audacious, and the quality of the performances world-class.  The prices are quite reasonable.  And the place is air conditioned, which is simply not the case for the other major Budapest concert halls (leading them to have at best skeletal schedules for the summer).  There are three halls within the new building, as well as atria, a bookshop, and a not bad at all restaurant.


The old and magnificent Opera House on Andrassy út is fully refurbished, intimate as far as opera houses go, and also has wonderful acoustics, and frequently has very strong performances.  Getting tickets, however, is very difficult, as the place more or less sells out to season ticket holders.  Try sidling up to the concierge desk of a five star hotel, and asking if they can help you get tickets.  You don’t have to be staying in the hotel, they charge a service charge and are happy to do it if they can.


The Liszt Music Academy, near Oktogon, off Andrassy ut, is to my tastes the best place to hear music in Budapest.  It is still fully programmed during the non-summer months, and is intimate and beautiful with wonderful acoustics.  This is actually the second home of the Music Academy, the first (19th Century) home is still in use but is somewhat further out on Andrassy and tourists rarely go to it.  This ‘newer’ hall (also more than 100 years old I think, and now trumped  as ‘new’ by the Palace of the Arts) still functions very much as a teaching institution; on spring days in the square in front of the Academy, if you sit in a café and have a cup of coffee you will hear wisps of music from practice rooms above you.


The Operetta Theatre, between the Opera House and the Music Academy, on Nagymezö, is home to wonderfully tongue-in-cheek productions of classic operetta kitsch and modern musicals.  The latter range from engaging to dreadful, the former are often worth a detour, and the hall itself is an absolute gem.


And there are numerous other places where classical music can be found (including the Vigado just off Vörösmarty tér on the Danube, various churches, and a range of auditoria in both Pest and Buda).  There are also more than a half dozen permanent and professional symphony orchestras resident in the city and numerous visiting artists from around the world.  Last year we had the pleasure of hearing Radu Lupu play twice…once in the Palace of the Arts, the other time in Carnegie Hall in New York.  The Budapest performance was far more alive, the acoustics were at least as good, and the ticket price in New York was $120 while in Budapest it was $16 for comparable seats.


Purchasing tickets from abroad, though, can be a challenge.  Even finding out schedules can be daunting, especially far in advance.  But the mupa and jegymester websites will take you a long way towards the goal.


Jazz/Folk/Clubs


Budapest is a fairly serious jazz venue, with much going on most of the year. http://www.jazz-clubs-worldwide.com/docs/hungary.htm Not an area of my expertise, but amply detailed in the Budapest Sun listings [http://www.budapestsun.com/10day.php] and in Budapest Panorama, many of the music clubs are intimate ways to become close to the city.  Look into Fat Mo’s and Fono and Potkulcs.  For jazz check out:


http://www.bjc.hu/


http://www.majazz.hu/html_columbus/magyar/index.html


For a wider range of offerings, including jazz:


http://a38.hu/


Klezmer


There is also an active klezmer music scene, and an ardent American expat is deeply embedded within it.  Bob Cohen is a generous Budapest enthusiast who has been willing to email strangers visiting the city with suggestions about out of the way places to eat like a local, and information about the music scene. Take a look at


http://www.klezmershack.com/bands/dnkapelye/cd/dnkapelye.cd.html


If you email him at zaelic@hotmail.com, mention that I suggested you might intrude on his privacy…



Theatre/Film


Some links.  Also the Budapest Sun 10 day calendar, http://www.budapestsun.com/calendar/.  And the Budapest Sun and its website have the best listings of films in English as well.  A surprising number of productions and movies are available to choose from.  There are multiplexes in many locales, including most malls.  But the one most worth visiting is the restored Corvin Film Palace near Kalvin tér.



National Theatre:


http://www.jegymester.hu/startpage.jsp?place=30000&alias=NEMZ&lang=ENG


Merlin International Theatre


http://www.merlinszinhaz.hu/english/about.html


Again, the Budapest Sun calendar:


http://www.budapestsun.com/calendar/




 

Budapest is a city that lives and breathes its cultural life.  Music pulses everywhere...there are at least four fully-staffed professional symphony orchestras.  Bookstores crop up in the most amazing places...almost every Metro station has one.  There are probably more publishers per capita than for any other language in the world.  There are theaters throughout the city, jazz concerts, roma music, klezmer.