Count István Széchenyi was the first to imagine a National Theatre on the banks of the Danube. He designed plans for a lavish building, and would have liked to operate the institution as a joint-stock company. The count urged the construction of the ambitious theatre complex in a 1832 pamphlet entitled ‘On the Hungarian Theatre’.
In decree 41 of 1836, the Hungarian Diet ordered the construction of a grand national Hungarian theatre. It operated on a designated plot of land in the city of Pest as the Hungarian Theatre, then from 22 August 1837 until 1840 as the Hungarian Theatre of Pest, and from 1840 as the National Theatre. The building, which stood at the corner of Rákóczi Street and the Museum Ring, was demolished in 1913.
The building of the People’s Theatre at Blaha Lujza Square was rented out to the theatre company. In 1963, the decision was taken to pull it down because of the construction of the new metro. The theatre operated here until 1964, and on 23 April 1965 the building was destroyed.
In 1964 the company moved to what is now the Thália Theatre in Nagymező Street. Two years later it was transferred to the former Hungarian Theatre on Hevesi Sándor Square for what proved to be quite a prolonged provisional period. This bore the name National Theatre until 1 September 2000, when construction work began on the new building on the bank of the Danube.
The new National Theatre along the Danube first opened its doors on 15 March 2002. By the time of its completion, it became a national symbol.
Its charter states that “...in line with tradition, it will endeavour to honour the exponents of Hungarian and universal dramatic literature in the newly-constructed National Theatre, in a fashion befitting the significance of the institution.”
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