The largest indoor complex in Hungarian railway history, a system of vast covered spaces unique in Europe, the Northern Railway Maintenance and Engineering Works was built between 1884 and 1886. After years of alterations and renovations, starting from 2020 it is now home to the Hungarian State Opera’s new logistics and art centre.
Since activities on the 22 hectare site ceased in 2009, in the summer of 2015 the government offered the middle 6.7 hectare part of the area to the Opera together with the five-nave core repair complex of 22,000 square metres, which has become known as the Eiffel, together with two auxiliary buildings and a medium-sized, standard train station. The rehearsal, production and storage centre for the Opera is being built here where the Bánffy Stage, with a 500-seat auditorium, will be constructed to include the Sándor Hevesi Rehearsal Stage of the same size as the stage of the Opera House and the Ferenc Fricsay Studio suitable for recordings. In addition to moving all of its nine production workshops, all of its sets, costumes and props here, the institution will also create a memorial hall for János Feketeházy, the designer of both this building and the Opera House’s iron skeleton.
The Eiffel Hall, which was large enough to repair up to 96 huge steam locomotives at a time, will house a restaurant (in a vintage railway car made of teak), where guests can marvel at the legendary No. 327.141 Hungarian steam locomotive in the atrium and the No. 006 “Biatorbágy” steam locomotive of the 301 series in the park. There will also be a costume rental shop and a visitor centre. The training centre for the Opera will be established here too, comprising the Opera Studio, the Opera Music School and the Opera Education Centre. The production studios will also function as a practical training centre, as we would like to train future generations of professionals in the ways of theatre production ourselves. We also plan to use the increased capacity in scene and costume preparations to take on orders.
A car park with a capacity for 200 vehicles was built next to a three-hectare park named after Zoltán Kodály and inaugurated during a spectacular open-air gala on 19 August 2020, where the famous viticulturist Károly Bakonyi’s grapes will grow together with Gergely Márk’s roses. A playground was also constructed surrounded by the halls, which will operate in a spirit of environmental awareness.
Although the completion of the entire project was planned for the end of 2020, a brief test run was held in April 2019, when the areas open to the audience were opened. The Bánffy Stage also presented its first opera and ballet performances. The official inauguration of the complex was planned for October 2020, which was hindered by the pandemic. Despite the difficulties caused by the virus, the space was used intensively during the lockdown as well: since September of 2020, the Opera provided more than one hundred free live-streamed performances, chamber concerts, and opera crossovers from the Eiffel Art Studios’ Sándor Hevesi Stage. Not to mention the rehearsals that never stop: by the time the institution could be reopened, audiences were welcomed by new productions, including performances of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme and Figaro3. The official inauguration took place on 25 October 2021 with a festive gala entitled Rebirth-Day.