Officially opened in April 2008, the Oslo Opera House was designed by the acclaimed Norwegian architectural firm Snøhetta. The opera, which took five years to complete, sits on the bank of the Bjørvika district, near the stock exchange and the central station. It is the largest cultural building to be built in Norway since the construction of the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim at the start of the 14th century.
From classics to world premieres of renowned and new Norwegian works, as well as a number of big concerts and one-off performances, the Oslo Opera House aims to bring culture to a wider audience.
In 2012 around 310 000 people attended one of The Norwegian National Opera & Ballet's performances and concerts. This is the biggest number in the history of the institution.
The 2013 season features over 330 performances and 11 new opera and ballet productions will be premiered.
A new landmark for Oslo
Oslo Opera has become a new landmark for the city and proved an instant success with both locals and tourists. In its five years since opening, over 8 million people have visited the house. Visitors grew by 20% between 2011 and 2012, and by the end of 2013 the total will pass 10 million visitors.
From the outside, the most striking feature is the white sloping marble roof which rises directly up from the Oslofjord, allowing visitors to enjoy a stroll and take in views of the city.
If you see the building from the fjord you will notice a facade of solar panels. In fact, this is Norway’s biggest area of solar panels supplying the building with some of the energy its needs.
International prizes and accolades
The opera has also won an array of awards, both at home and abroad, including the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Prize (2009) and the International Architecture Award 2010. It was also named World Cultural Building of the Year in 2008.
"The Oslo opera house is a powerful and beautiful statement, radiant with music and song, one that announces Norway's arrival as a cultural center . Most of all, it's a building to be shared: anyone who travels to Oslo will want to see, and climb, Snøhetta's marble mountain," wrote Jonathan Glancey in the British newspaper The Guardian just after the building’s inauguration in April 2008.
Meanwhile The Times’ Richard Morrison declared: "I am in love. She's Norwegian, gorgeous, full of fun, yet with surprising hidden depths. She's the new Oslo Opera House, an amazing marble and granite vision that rises out of the fjord like a giant ice floe."
Cutting edge architecture and design
The floor area of the base of the building is equivalent to four international standard football fields and measures more than 38,000 square meters. The building boasts three stages and a total of 1,100 rooms.
The foyer is a huge open room with a minimalist décor, using simple materials such as stone, concrete, glass and wood. Here you find seating areas, bars and restaurants.
The main classical horseshoe shaped auditorium, which is one of the most technologically advanced in the world, offers great scenographic flexibility and fantastic acoustics. The stage area measures several thousand square meters and parts of it are as much as 16 meters below the surface of the water.
In contrast to the light foyer, the main auditorium is decorated in ammonia-treated Baltic oak. The seatbacks of the 1,350 seats contain individual screens with subtitles in eight different languages. Boat builders from the northwest coast of Norway have carved the balconies, and hanging from the ceiling is Norway’s largest circular chandelier. It is 7 meters in diameter, weighs 8 tons, has 5,800 crystal glass elements and was produced by the Norwegian firm Hadeland Glassverk.
International visitors to productions will find text displays built into the back of every seat in the Main and Second House where you can read the librettos in English or Norwegian.
Interested in finding out more about the opera? Join a guided tour. Tours are available at weekends, and last for about 50 minutes. They must be booked in advance.