Ten years after the process was initiated, and at a price tag of over four billion Norwegian kroner, the prestige project that is the new national Norwegian opera is ready for the grand opening on Saturday April 12th.
According to architects Snøhetta it is one of the five most complex buildings in the world.
-An opera house is by nature a hugely complex structure says Snøhetta’s project manager Taral Lundevall. –It houses a plethora of specially designed rooms, halls and areas, for a variety of professionals; from dancers to blacksmiths. And this one is also partially built in water, which has entailed very demanding foundation work.
The Opera is not simply an absolute state-of-the-art music venue; it is a stunning piece of architecture, a feat of engineering and the cornerstone of the development of a whole new part of Oslo. It is beyond doubt the most prestigious project in modern Norwegian cultural history and it will be a catalyst for the experience of the Norwegian capital in the decades to come.
Already international critics have embraced the building, saying that “finally Sydney has a competitor.”
But most of all it is of course an opera house and the extensive program for the grand opening and the following weeks of celebrations has been the cause of much debate. Since the decision was made to forward the opening date by six months, two commissioned operas by Norwegian composers have had to be left out of the program. This has of course upset the milieu of Norwegian composers and many critics who claim that only a newly written piece of great proportion would serve as a fitting opening performance. Much criticism has also been lavished on the decision to include in the program music and artists that are miles away from opera, like the of-the-people ensembles Ole Ivars and DDE, both of which will perform on the new opera’s secondary stages on the night of the grand opening.
However, the opera director Bjørn Simensen is proud of the program he is about to present to the people. In addition to the full ensemble of the Norwegian Opera and Ballet the opening gala performance on Saturday April 12th will include some of the brightest stars on the international operatic firmament, such as sopranos Maria Guleghina, Nicole Cabell and Anja Harteros, and the German bass singer René Pape. Norwegian guest soloists are Elisabeth Norberg-Schultz, Solveig Kringlebotn and Randi Stene, all of which have performed on the world’s major opera stages.
The performance will comprise highlights from the history of opera, such as The Magic Flute, Figaro’s Wedding and Don Carlo, as well as excerpts more recent works, including the brand new “Around the world in 80 days” by Gisle Kverndokk, (which was the original commission for the opening that had to be excluded from the program due to its technical complexity).
Fourteen hundred people will attend the grand opening. In addition to the royals and dignitaries two hundred seats have been reserved for common opera lovers who have been selected by lots. The rest of us will have to watch the gala performance on Norwegian National Broadcasting.
And then, in the weeks that follow, a varied program will introduce the different institutions that the complex houses and the three different stages it comprises. Some highlights are:
Saturday April 19th
Concert opening: The Norwegian Opera Orchestra and conductor Lorin Maazel performing “The ring without words”, with music from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen.
Friday April 25th
Ballet opening of stage 2: Premiere of Ingun Bjørngaard’s ballet “A modern place” with music composed by Rolf Wallin and Henrik Hellstenius.
Saturday April 26th
Opera opening of the main stage: “Opera party” with highlights from operas and operettas with the Norwegian Opera’s soloists, choir and orchestra.
Saturday May 24th.
Ballet opening of the main stage: Premiere of Jiri Kylián’s ballet evening “Worlds beyond”.
Thursday May 29th.
Opera opening stage 2: Performance of the world’s oldest opera; Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi