Budapest, the City of Entertainment
Dancing, music, drinking, games and casual conversations have always been part of entertainment, but in growing, increasingly industrialised cities such as Budapest, fun has taken on a new form.
To the delight of aristocrats and the bourgeoisie, a venue called Redoute opened in January 1833, hosting dances, concerts, and theatrical performances, but it was also the location of the first Hungarian Exhibition of Applied Arts. After the Redoute suffered significant damage during the War of Independence, it was demolished and replaced by the Pesti Vigadó Concert Hall. The romanticist building with oriental architectural features was built based on the designs of Frigyes Feszl. It opened in 1865, and in addition to its cultural functions, it also served as a venue for other significant historical events. It is where Budapest was born via the unification of Buda, Pest and Óbuda; where the General Assembly of the new capital held its inaugural meeting; and where the first mayor, Károly Ráth, was elected.
There were also places less sophisticated than the Pesti Vigadó, where one could kill time in the city. At sideshows in City Park, merry-go-rounds and other wonders awaited the public, and the first clubs also started to pop up in the city. These were initially concentrated around Király Street, including the Blau Katze (“Kék Macska”) club, which introduced this type of entertainment in the mid-19th century. Its repertoire mainly featured lewd sketches and songs, and also scantily clad women to ensure a good time for patrons. Over time, many other places followed in the footsteps of Kék Macska. In 1865, the first large orpheum, the infamous Neue Welt (Új Világ), opened at the location of what is today’s Vígszínház Comedy Theater.
Károly Somossy’s imposing Budapest Orpheum (which is now the Operett Theatre), opened in 1894, and provided high-quality entertainment. Its German-language schedule featured not only performers and dancers, but also artists and acrobats. It was also one of the first locations to screen a film in Budapest. Another of Somossy’s business ventures was the entertainment district Constantinople in Budapest, next to the Rákóczi Bridge, in Lágymányos. It, however, proved to be a failure as the invasion of mosquitoes made it impossible to enjoy the outdoor venue, even though the opening of the entertainment district conjuring up the Orient and featuring Turkish architectural style in May 1896, made sense at the time. It coincided with millennial celebrations marking the 1000-year anniversary of the founding of Hungary and attracted a large number of visitors.
Also to mark the occasion, an entertainment complex called Old Buda Castle was opened in City Park, which also recalled the Turkish era. (The Millennium Monument in Heroes' Square was also due to be completed that year, but was delayed by a decade.) It’s interesting to note that although the temporary buildings of the quarter were later demolished, a permanent group of historic buildings called Vajdahunyad Castle was built on the site and remains a popular attraction to this day.
Those who wished to socialise or read newspapers in a more peaceful setting rather than a noisy club in the increasingly cosmopolitan Budapest, could relax in one of the nearly 500 cafés that popped up all over the city by the beginning of the 20th century.
See also: National Art
The Alrite speech recognation (speech-to-text) program helped to write the publication.
Photo: Puskin Street 4., headquarters of the National Association of Hungarian Officers, Tisztviselő Casino, event of the Mátra Association, 1940 (source: Fortepan / Mátyásfalvi János)
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