Posts Tagged ‘Budapest’

Budapest Opera: Elektra

Budapest Opera

One of Budapest’s must-sees is the opera house–Evan and I have had it on our list since he first came out here, and we wanted to see a show instead of taking a tour because we heard they were comparable in price.Big and stately, sitting on Andrassy Ut, its exterior is a columned and statued and there are delicate details every place you look. Inside, there are sprawling staircases, marble walls, gilded box seats and plenty of busts of people we’d never heard of. We had nice seats in the second tier, one row in, and right in the center. There were four other people sharing box 11 with us.

We settled in and bought a program, since the usher said there was a synopsis in it in English. As neither Evan nor I are big opera fans–I went once to see my friend Elisa perform in a college opera and that’s about it for our total opera experience–we felt we should be prepared. We were seeing Strauss’s Elektra, which is based on the Greek tragedy.

As the story goes, when it starts, it’s just after Elektra’s mother, Clytemnestra, along with her lover, Aegistheus, have killed Elektra’s father, Agamemnon (OK, that part was somewhat familiar to me from high school literature class). What happens next, though, is that Elektra wants to seek revenge and kill Clytemnestra and Aegistheus, and she wants her brother to do it. Unfortunately, her mother tells her that her brother, Orestes, is dead, so she decided that she and her silly sister who is obsessed with getting married should take things into their own hands. She basically starts to go crazy with her obsession for revenge and as things turn out, Orestes isn’t dead–it was all just a plot so he could REALLY surprise his mom by killing her. And, well, he does. And he kills Aegistheus too.

But here’s where things get weird. Our synopsis (as well as Wikipedia’s) said that Elektra dies after jubilantly dancing herself to death while celebrating the avenging of her father’s murder. In our version, Orestes shoots her with a machine gun–before he even shoots his mother! There were other strange things about our opera, too.

First, it was set in a bath house, which seemed particularly appropriate for Budapest, and it seemed a lot like the many baths in the city–complete with attendants in funny white suits. Then, there was an area of the stage which was supposed to maybe be the forest where Elektra is in exile (maybe?), and it was a bunch of bags of soil stacked up into a wall, and one spindly tree growing out of a bag of soil, which gets a surprising amount of abuse throughout the play, with Elektra caressing it, dancing with it, swinging it around, knocking it over and carrying it up stairs. It seemed to be a symbol for Agamemnon.

Also, I know it’s based on a Greek tragedy and there are always weird family dynamics, but we got to see Elektra making out with both her sister and her brother. As well as rolling around on the floor with her brother. It was a bit creepy.

Elektra also did a really awkward costume change right on stage, where she put on a white wrap dress over her black one and removed her poofy black skirt, which gave her quite a struggle. Though I’ve got to hand it to the girl–she was on stage 95 percent of the show and she sang for a huge portion of it with pretty much no breaks. She and Clytemnestra were the strongest singers. The others weren’t very impressive and often got overshadowed by the large orchestra.

But thank goodness for the synopsis, or we wouldn’t have had any clue who the characters were or what was going on since the opera is in German and the subtitles were all in Hungarian. It was quite an experience.

Then we went to Klassz for dinner. Just as good, if not better than our first meal there. The menu was completely different, which was exciting–I had a salad and lemon risotto, and boy does that chef know how to make a creamy, rich and extremely flavorful risotto. Evan had beef bullion and some sort of pork, which he really enjoyed, too. We still haven’t tried their dessert.

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Check out the rest of the photos on Evan’s site.

Ice Skating in City Park

Though Sunday was gloomy, it didn’t stop us from spending almost the whole day outside. After Statue Park, we went to City Park to go ice skating. We did pretty well–no injuries, or even falls–and I even spun around a few times. And it was great to be skating outside by the park’s castle. I wish I could still ice skate like I did when I was a kid, though.

Ice skating in City Park Budapest

Ice skating in City Park Budapest

Check out the rest of our ice skating photos on Evan’s site.

After ice skating, we went to the small Christmas market in the park for more kurtos kalacs. It wasn’t quite as delicious as it was in Szentendre, but it was still good. And while we were getting our sugar fix, we realized that they were playing possibly less-than-appropriate Christmas songs for all the kids at the market–they were playing South Park’s “Christmas Time in Hell.” We guessed that they didn’t understand the lyrics. Check them out (from MetroLyrics):

Statue Park

Budapest Statue Park

Sunday, Evan and I went to Statue Park, a short drive from Budapest, to see soviet-era statues that were moved from the city center to the countryside. Though the park was smaller than we expected and sort of strangely organized–we were under the impression that it was just a bunch of statues strewn about a field, though it’s actually a dozen or so statues organized in a sort of ringed garden–it made for an interesting afternoon outing, even on a cold and gloomy day. Also, most statues aren’t as big as the ones in the photos–those are the most striking ones.

One interesting statue that didn’t actually photograph very well (sorry) was Stalin’s boots. It used to be all of Stalin, but it was torn down from the knees up in a revolution.

Budapest Statue Park

I’ll link to the rest of the photos when Evan gets the gallery up on his site. OK, they’re up now. See them here.

Andrassy Ut at Night

On the way home from Szentendre, Evan and I ran in to a good deal of traffic getting back to our hotel, but I used it as an opportunity to take some photos of the lights in the city. Here’s one taken on Andrassy Ut, which seems to often be billed as “Budapest’s classiest boulevard.”

Andrassy Ut Budapest

Day Trip to Szentendre

Szentendre Christmas Market

Saturday, Evan and I took a short day trip to Szentendre, a town about 20 minutes outside of Budapest that’s known for being a cute, touristy artist colony on the bank of the Danube. After parking, we just started wandering into the small town, and we heard music and some pretty awful singing coming from the town square. We decided to skip the first part of the show and go to the Margit Kovacs Ceramics Museum, which had a nice collection of the artist’s work.

Once we were done with the museum, we went back out to the main square and found a group of schoolkids performing a cute little song and dance. We lost interest by the time a group of older students started dancing, and decided to check out the music box museum, which ended up being really interesting.

The small museum, tucked away in the back of a souvenir shop, was quite delightful. They had a host of old music-playing gadgets, including orchestrations, a clockwork bird, old gramophones and other sound machines. We even got to hear a number of them and got to turn the cranks ourselves on a few. Some dated back 200 years yet sounded remarkably good. Others didn’t sound as great because the humidity was low.

Szentendre Christmas Market kurtos kolacs

Next we went on to the Christmas market, which wasn’t crowded and had some interesting foods and crafts. We tried out kurtos kolacs, which is essentially fire-roasted coil of dough cooked on a wooden dowel and rolled in sugar, and found our new favorite Hungarian treat. Look at me just drooling over it. It was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and it stayed hot the whole time we were eating it (which really wasn’t very long).

Szentendre Christmas Market kurtos kolacs

Also, in the Christmas market, there were many people walking around with their children and handing out homemade baked goods on trays. We got some cheese bread, which was good, and the whole thing just seemed like a really nice tradition. I believe it was the festival of St. Nicholas.

We tried to take a look at some more museums and churches in Szentendre, but they weren’t open very late, but I did manage to take a great photo of a boat on the Danube before I left.

Boat on Danube

Check out the rest of our Szentendre photos on Evan’s site.

Red Light, Green Light …

Happy face light!

happy face orange light

Photographed today at Oktogon.

Evan’s Burgerwar Submission Posted!

Check out Chew.hu, where hey posted Evan’s Burgerwar entry–complete with half-eaten burger picture in night-vision goggles. As he sent in a “guerrilla” burger review.

All we can say is, we honor you, E.S., for the initiative you and your unit took on this mission, which could have ended in tragedy had you been captured by the management, who given your “irregular” status would have no obligation to afford you the protections of the Geneva Convention.

Check out “Insurgent Readers Interrupt Temporary Burgerwar Cease-Fire” on Chew and my review of our dinner at Ring, “A ‘Mexiterranean’ Dinner at Ring Bar and Cafe.”