Culture on a shoestring: a night at the opera in Budapest

Budapest opera

Tosca is a drama queen – that was my first impression. Creating problems where there were none, imagining illicit affairs. What would happen if she had a real issue to deal with?

Everyone has their comfort zone and maybe places they think aren’t for them. An opera house was the last place I thought I’d ever end up. To me it seemed too expensive and elitist.

So why was I spending my Saturday night on the edge of my seat, following Tosca’s dramatic final hours? Well, the £2 price tag might have gone some way to persuading me to put my prejudices aside. Yes, you can buy box tickets for a night at Budapest’s beautiful opera house online for only £2. The views may be slightly restricted, but in our case that only meant about 10% of the stage on the far left wasn’t visible.

Arrive early so you can enjoy one of the marbled bars – a 2-glass bottle of Hungarian champagne will set you back about £3. More than the ticket, but still far cheaper than the same bottle back home!

Budapest opera

Afraid you won’t be able to follow the action? The lyrics are translated into Hungarian and English on a small screen at the top of the stage so it’s not a problem.

My only previous experience of opera was watching the Three Tenors World Cup concerts on TV, back in the 90s, and one of my favourite songs from these was the famous Tosca aria, E Lucevan le Stelle. Hearing it sung live, in the dramatic final act was something else entirely. I finally understood the lyrics that matched the haunting melody, and it was spinetingling.

Maybe Tosca is one of the more accessible operas, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. If I’d never gone to Budapest and found such a discounted ticket, I’d never have thought of going to the opera. Unlike Tosca’s own story, this one had a happy ending.

opera (Copy)

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