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"The Palace of Culture"

"The Palace of Culture" – National Theatre and the Opera House in Timişoara

opera smallCurrent name

National Theatre – Romanian Opera House in Timişoara – The German State Theatre – "Csiky Gergely" Hungarian Theatre (all these institutions are hosted by this establishment)

2 Mărăşeşti St.
2 Alba Iulia St.

Historical names and dating

Between1872 and 1875 the theater complex is built under the official name of “Franz Joseph Theater”, also containing the “Kronprinz Rudolf” Hotel, the “redoubt” (the ballroom and festivities room), a restaurant and a café.

Architects Fellner and Helmer was the largest theater designer firm at that time. They built 48 theaters. On the current territory of Romania it also built the theaters in Oradea, Cluj and Iaşi. In our country’s vicinity they built the theaters in Szeged, Cernăuţi, Odessa and Sofia.

palatul culturii vechi-smOn May 1, 1880, the building burned and it was “reconstructed” from 1880 to 1882, apparently in the same style.

In 1920 it burns again.

It is rebuilt between 1923 and 1928 (especially the inside). Architect Duiliu Marcu

Between 1934 and 1936 the main façade is fundamentally changed. Architect Duiliu Marcu

In 2003, the side surfaces of the main façade regain their original appearance.

opera vecheArchitectural style

The theater was originally built in historicist eclectic style, typical for the second half of the nineteenth century. The authors said they use some items offered by the late “Italian Renaissance”, as it was in the nineteenth century eclectic architecture.

Between 1923 and 1928 the interior is restored in a neo-Romanian style. Only the three entrance arches on the ground floor are replaced with a wider entrance gate; on the roof a water tank is built, resolved as a Napoleon III-style dome. The rest of the façade remains unchanged.

Between 1934 and 1936 the main façade is fundamentally changed by building a huge modern arc. The three historicist eclectic arcades on the first floor are replaced with three neo-Byzantine arches.

Other information

Between 1744 and 1745 on exactly the same site the Petrovaradin Gate Barracks was built, later called the Genadier Barracks.

In front of the barracks there was only a “little alarm square” (such alarm squares were found behind all three city’s gates for tactical reasons), after which the Petrovaradin Gate followed.

When the theater was built it was assumed that the fortifications would be demolished, but no one knew how big the square in front of the building would be (originally a small square was designed here) or how big the buildings would be, which would flank the square.

After 360 meters long area was built in front of it and this space was occupied with buildings taller than the theater, it became too short. This was the urban reason for which the great triumphal arch was built.


1. King Carol II presumably asked architect Duiliu Marcu, seeing the great triumphal arc:
- But what style is it, professor?

- Carol II Style, Sire, replied the architect.

Since exactly the same legend goes about Napoleon III and the architect of the Paris Opera, Charles Garnier, it is likely that folklore in Timişoara adapted the French story to “local conditions”.


2. The great triumphal arc and the balcony on the first floor were finished in 1936, two years before the “royal dictatorship” was instituted, the first dictatorship of the twentieth century in Romania. The great triumphal arc and the balcony are related to the name of King Carol II, which established the dictatorship.

From the balcony of the Opera, Timişoara was declared “the first free town in Romania” on December 20, 1989, the theater being symbolically linked to the collapse of the last dictatorship of the twentieth century in Romania!

3. The original theater building (the one made according to Helmer and Fellner's plans) had 4 statues on the fronton; they were representations of the muses: Thalia, Melpomene, Euterpe and Terpsichore. Each weighed about 900 kilograms at a height of about three meters and, during the inauguration rush in 1875, no one was found able to lift them in their place; the four statues have lain in a store year after year because every year someone opposed the installation costs, when the budget was voted; it just seemed that the city in which hundreds of new palaces rose in the late nineteenth century would never afford to install all four décor pieces (any similarities to the current situation are random...), so finally they were sold “on sale” (200 guldens for all four statues) to Mathias Stein to decorate his house in the Elisabetin district. In the interwar period they still could be seen there.

4. A year before the first fire – that is in 1879 – in the “Redoubt” hall performed Johannes Brahms. Brahms was already well known, and the hall was overcrowded: “All those who had ears were there”.


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