Istana Budaya

The Istana Budaya or also known as the Palace of Culture, is Malaysia's main venue for all types of theatre including musical theatre, operetta, classical concerts and opera from local and international performances. It is located in heart of Kuala Lumpur city, next to the National Art Gallery.[1]

Istana Budaya
Istana Budaya from lake view.jpg
View from across the lake
LocationKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Coordinates3°10′28″N 101°42′13″E / 3.1744°N 101.7037°E / 3.1744; 101.7037Coordinates: 3°10′28″N 101°42′13″E / 3.1744°N 101.7037°E / 3.1744; 101.7037
OwnerCity of Kuala Lumpur
TypeConcert hall, Opera house
Seating typehall seats and box seats
Capacity1,412 seats
ArchitectMuhammad Kamar Ya'akub
Official website
Istana Budaya on Facebook


Main entrance
Istana Budaya at night
One of the doors with traditional Malay motifs

The idea of this theatre began with the proposal in 1964 to establish a cultural centre. The construction work began in 1995 and was completed three years later. It was built at a cost of RM210 million with a theatre floor area of 21,000 m² as part of the 54,400 m² cultural complex. The Istana Budaya was officially opened in 1999 by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad. Upon completion, the former national theatre, Panggung Negara was relocated to this new building. Istana Budaya is the home of the Residence Artists (Dance);the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) and the Orchestra Traditional Malaysia (OTM).[1]

Istana Budaya logo

The Istana Budaya theatre hall Panggung Sari, with its unique design of royal boxes inspired by the windows of the traditional Rumah Melayu or Malay house, can accommodate up to 1,410 audiences at a time. Istana Budaya is also rated among the ten most sophisticated theatres in the world, and on par with the Royal Albert Hall in London.[2]

Istana Budaya aims to raise the standards of performing arts, develop artistic excellence in theatre, popularise high-quality theatre productions and develop a higher sense of artistic appreciation.[3]


The building was designed by the local architect firm, ADC ARCHITECT SDN. The inspiration for the design is based on a traditional moon kite in flight. The turquoise folds on the roof and the intricate design of the foyer are just two of the interesting features of the building. Istana Budaya's architecture has intrigued experts and academics.

The main building takes the shape of the sirih junjung, a traditional arrangement or a present made of betel leaves used during Malay wedding and welcoming ceremonies. As in a traditional Malay house, the building is divided into three areas:

  • The serambi (lobby and foyer)
  • The rumah ibu (main house) as the auditorium
  • The rumah dapur (kitchen) as the stage and rehearsal hall.[4]

The interior was constructed using local resources such as Langkawi's marble and high-quality tropical wood for the doors crafted by hand to shape flowers and leaf motifs. The verdant carpets in the entrance hall and lobby feature cempaka flower and the banyan tree, inspired by traditional Malay opera or Mak Yong.[5]

In the auditorium, there are royal boxes on each side, patterned after the windows of a Malay house. The entrance to the theatre, too, replicates a palace's main hall, or the Balairong Seri and is said to be modelled after one in Malacca.

The theatre lobby on the third floor extends the influence of Malay culture, taking the shape of the rebana ubi or traditional drum. The auditorium itself seats about 1,412 people, including 797 in the stalls on the first floor, 312 in the grand circle on the second floor and 303 people in the upper circle. The orchestra pit, when it is not in use, can take in 98 people.

Istana Budaya has wheelchair facilities, including a ramp into the foyer, a lift with easy-to-reach buttons and an area designated for the handicapped. Restrooms for the disabled are also found at both the stalls and grand circle areas. Additionally, there is also a costume gallery featuring clothes from Malay traditional theatre. The costumes are from Bangsawan, Mak Yong, Ajat Bebunuh, Layang Emas and Bambarayon performances, among others.[6]


Istana Budaya has staged many notable opera performances including The Merry Widow, Tosca, La Bohème, Turandot and Carmen accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra and chorus.[2] It has also become the main venue for the successful local musical production, Puteri Gunung Ledang.[7][8]

Music directors / conductorsEdit

  • Mustafa Fuzer Nawi (1999 – ) Music Director / Chief conductor[9][10]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Official Visit KL – Istana Budaya". Visit KL official site. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Kuala Lumpur WS – Istana Budaya". KL WS site. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  3. ^ "Vision, Mission and Objective". Istana Budaya site. Retrieved 31 July 2018
  4. ^ "Malaysia National Theatre architecture". site. Retrieved 31 July 2018
  5. ^ Interior design. Retrieved 3 July 2007. Archived 20 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Istana Budaya architecture". site. Retrieved 31 July 2018
  7. ^ “Puteri Gunung Ledang kali ke-3 di Istana Budaya". Malay Star site. Retrieved 3 August 2018 (in Malay)
  8. ^ “5 persembahan terbaik Istana Budaya". Daily Rojak site. Retrieved 3 August 2018 (in Malay)
  9. ^ "Conductor". Istana Budaya site – OSK section. Retrieved 31 July 2018 (in Malay)
  10. ^ "Mustafa Fuzer Nawi". Euroasia site. Retrieved 2 August 2018

External linksEdit