The 111-year-old Erkel Theater in Budapest, one of three venues for the Hungarian State Opera, will close its doors in November after exponentially rising energy bills made heating the 1,800-seat building unsustainable.
“We had to decide how we could save. Although the decision to close Erkel for a few months hurts, it is completely rational,” said the director of the state opera Szilveszter Okovacs. Energy bills have “increased by eight times, sometimes ten times. Something had to be done, because after all, people’s wages are… the most important,” is according to the writing Associated Press (AP) said the director.
The temporary closure of the Erkel Theater is just one of many examples of cultural institutions in Hungary struggling to survive as high inflation, a weakening currency and energy costs take a heavy financial toll. It is yet another example of the problems countries across Europe are increasingly experiencing, with energy prices soaring due to the war in Ukraine, forcing some factories to close, making life more expensive and fueling fear. before the impending recession.
Bills jumped by as much as 1000 percentIn July, the Hungarian government announced “energy emergencies” in response to rising prices and supply disruptions linked to the Ukrainian war. The country has also cut back on a popular utility subsidy program, which had made Hungarian bills among the lowest of any country in the EU since 2014. As a result, many companies and household bills for natural gas and electricity jumped by as much as 1,000 percent from one month to the next.
To reduce energy consumption, the Hungarian government ordered a 25% reduction in electricity and natural gas consumption in public buildings – including cultural institutions – and ordered that their heating be maintained at no more than 18 degrees Celsius.
Just two-thirds of Beat Bard’s usual winter programdirector of the Trafo House of Contemporary Art in Budapest, said that the electricity bills at this institution have tripled since June and that there is “uncertainty factor” in terms of how much gas bills they’ll still be able to get through the winter. To keep costs down, productions will run for only about two-thirds of the normal winter schedule, will insulate parts of the building that don’t need to be heated, and will cut down on the number of rehearsals that require full stage lighting.”We would like to avoid closing or canceling performances, so we obviously have to cut costs in every way,” said the director.
With inflation at nearly 16 percent in Hungary and the national currency hitting historic lows against the dollar and euro, households are also struggling with rising prices. This is, of course, a fact that could affect the decline in theater attendance and the resulting spiral of financial problems in the cultural industry, Barda added. “Our audience also has wallets and their costs have increased as well. How able or willing will they be to come to the theater? This is a really important question,” concluded the director of Trafa.
Some lights are also switched off during working days At the Great Comedy Theater in Budapest, one of the oldest theater houses in the capital, the lights in the building’s decorative lobby and winding corridors are kept off even during working days to save energy. The annual gas bill for the 130-square-meter theater jumped from 92,000 euros to 577,000 euros, which is an almost six-fold increase. “So far we have been able to pay our utility bills by selling tickets to two or three people out of every 100 spectators. Now we have to divert the price of every other person’s ticket to pay for our utilities,” said the financial director of the theater Zoltan Madi.
The problems faced by theaters in Hungary are of course not limited to the capital. Local authorities across the country have announced that theatres, cinemas, museums and other cultural institutions must close for the winter to avoid being hit by high heating and electricity costs.
The impact on people’s mental state if cultural institutions are closedWith the deepening of the energy crisis, several Hungarian theaters could face permanent closure – something that the director Krisztina Szekely from the Katona Jozsef Theater in Budapest said that it would undoubtedly have negative consequences for the cultural life of Hungarians. “I believe it will have a significant impact on the mental state of society if these institutions are not functioning or available in any city or society,” she told AP.