Budapest is proud of possessing one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. The opening performance of the Opera House was held in the neo-Renaissance building, the jewel of the avenue, in 1884 after nine years of construction. The staircase and the auditorium of the palace, designed by one of the best architects of those days Miklós Ybl, are decorated with frescos of eminent Hungarian painters such as Bertalan Székely, Mór Thán and Károly Lotz. The first director was Ferenc Erkel, Gustav Mahler held this post for several years, and Puccini directed the premiere of two of his operas here. Renowned guest conductors include Otto Klemperer, Sergio Failoni and Lamberto Gardelli. It is still one of the best opera houses in Europe. Well worth a visit, even for those who do not especially like operas.