The building of the Csokonai National Theatre located in Debrecen was reopened to the public with a spectacular gala performance after nearly three years of complete renovation. János Lázár, Minister of Construction and Transport, gave a speech at the opening ceremony on 17th of September 2023.

At the beginning of the inauguration ceremony, the building of the Csokonai Theatre was consecrated by the Archbishop-Metropolitan of the Greek Catholic Archdiocese of Hajdúdorog Fülöp  Kocsis, Bishop of the Reformed Diocese of Tiszántúli Károly Fekete and Vicar General of the Diocese of Debrecen-Nyíregyháza Zoltán Krakomperger.

During the inauguration event, Mayor of Debrecen László Papp pointed out that barely a year after the opening of the Csokonai Fórum, the complete modernisation of the Csokonai Theatre building was completed just in time for the 250th anniversary of the birth of local poet Mihály Csokonai Vitéz. He said that the building is a great witness to the history of Hungarian theatre, as audiences have been able to admire the performances of many outstanding artists within its walls. 

“The renewed Csokonai National Theatre is a renewed resource for Debrecen.I believe that the theatrical experiences here at the Csokonai National Theatre will contribute to the fulfilment of our Debreceness, the love and respect of our city and the preservation of Debrecen’s historical values”, he said.

The mayor stressed that the renovated building has been built to the highest technical standards and stage technology available today while preserving its traditional values. “Debrecen has always developed without letting go of the past, without letting go of its traditions”, he underlined. He cited the example of Imre Simonffy, the mayor of Debrecen, and the perseverance and foresight of the Debrecen city administration at the time, which laid the foundations for the city’s development when the theatre building was opened 158 years ago. “I believe that the careful renovation of this historic building today is still the opening of an exciting and transformative period of development that awaits us in the coming decades. Let this renewed historic building be a symbol of the development that lies ahead of us,” he added.

The mayor also said that in times of recent difficulties such as the epidemic, war and the crisis of national cultures, there is a great need to have a strong national and cultural policy. Debrecen will have a key role to play in this, as the city and the theatre of Debrecen have changed scale, size, technical possibilities and content, and a new era is beginning, which now carries the message of a city of European importance. As he said: “Debrecen will be one of the most important pillars of the Hungarian success story of the 21st century!” László Papp stressed that starting today, Debrecen is the first city in rural Hungary to have two permanent theatres serving the cause of Hungarian culture.

In his speech, János Lázár, Minister of Construction and Transport, recalled that it is exactly 25 years since 18th October 1998, when the city of Debrecen started a new era in the life of its inhabitants. “Debrecen has reached a new level, a new city, a new community has been born, and the change that has taken place is noticeable even by Central European standards.”

The people of Debrecen have succeeded in doing what the Hungarians have not yet managed to do: to become a centre again, to reunite the Alföld, which has been divided into many parts. In these 25 years, Debrecen has become the centre of the Great Plain. The Government of Hungary regards Debrecen as the second capital of the country”, the minister stressed. He added that” in Debrecen, we will inaugurate the Church of the Muses, named after Mihály Csokonai Vitéz: the temple of spirit, knowledge, art, the centre of dance and music.”

“Debrecen can be a city like Hamburg and Munich in Germany. The Government has now decided to develop the Debrecen economic zone to the tune of HUF 500 billion. This means new jobs, new investments, railways, roads and a number of industrial facilities and investments that will contribute to improving the quality of life of the people living here, and will lift up this city and this community. Our goal is to provide the university, the city, the employers and the workers with another HUF 500 billion to enable Debrecen to develop further”, János Lázár said.

Szabolcs Mátyássy, director of the Csokonai National Theatre, said in his welcome speech that they have dreamed up a theatre that is basically based on the folk theatre structure, so prose and musical performances of different genres and characters alternate, and in addition – taking into account the national classification – a strengthened opera company and a newly formed dance company await the audience.

“For me, it is extremely important that the Csokonai National Theatre should be the flagship of Debrecen’s cultural life by maintaining and integrating local values in close cooperation with educational and cultural institutions. In addition, I am determined that the theatre should play a more prominent role in both the domestic and international arena”, the theatre’s director underlined.

The opening production of the Csokonai Theatre’s “Let’s Move Back Into Each Other” was directed by István K. Szabó, Jászai Mari Award-winning director and artistic director of the Csokonai National Theatre. The programme featured the Company of the Csokonai National Theatre, Nelli Szűcs, Jászai-Mari Prize-winning and distinguished artist, the Hajdú Dance Ensemble Debrecen and the Kodály Philharmonic Orchestra Debrecen.


Technical information on the renovation of the Csokonai Teátrum:

The full renovation started in September 2020, before which the building was modernised on a larger scale in the early 1980s, but the scale of the renovation that has now been carried out has not been done since the building was completed. A few months after the site was opened, the contractor, HUNÉP Zrt., began demolishing the building down to the structure, and the space under the stage was stripped down to the bricks, six and a half metres deep. A very important element of the renovation is the preservation of the value of the building, and the works were carried out under the supervision of the monument.

The theatre has been completely restored to the original plans and in its old style. The most different part compared to the previous state is the arrival area. When arriving at the theatre, guests are now greeted by a spacious colonnade and a beautiful, bright and elegant space, whereas before, the arrival experience for anyone entering the doors of the Csokonai Theatre was a very high, steep staircase. The auditorium has also been transformed in terms of capacity, almost doubling the capacity of the theatre. From 350 full seats, the capacity of the theatre has now increased to more than 600 people.

The renovation of the Csokonai Theatre was funded by the Government with around HUF 12.7 billion.

Source and photo credit: debrecen.hu

Author: Debrecen4U