Oslo’s stunning new opera house has been designed to resemble a glacier rising from the waters of the Oslofjord. With three stages and over 1,000 rooms, it is one of the most ambitious cultural projects ever undertaken in Norway. Not surprisingly, the building has been garlanded with architectural awards, including the prestigious European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture. It is also remarkable for being completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
One of its most prominent features is its steeply sloping roof which doubles as a public plaza. During the summer it’s a popular spot for picnics and sunbathing, with great views over the fjord. The interior is noted for its Wave Wall, a spectacular curved oak wall which wraps cosily around the three performance spaces, refracting the huge forests of the Norwegian countryside.
Eight specially commissioned artworks are displayed in various parts of the building. Look out for the perforated wall panels in the foyer created by Olafur Eliasson, illuminated from below to give the illusion of melting ice, and the main stage curtain by Pae White, inspired by crumpled aluminium foil and specially woven from a computer scan.
Guided tours of the public and backstage areas are a great way to see the building if you don’t have time to attend a performance. Visitors can stand on the main stage, visit the costume department and scenery workshops, and sometimes even watch part of a rehearsal. Tours are held daily and must be booked in advance through the official website. Even without a tour, it is possible to see many parts of the building, which has been designed to be as open and accessible as possible.
The best way to appreciate the special qualities of the spacious auditoria is to buy a ticket to the ballet or opera. Many of the performances are preceded by an introductory presentation at the education centre, lasting around half an hour, so check the website to see if any are scheduled for the date of your visit.
Oslo Opera House is in the waterfront neighbourhood of Bjørvika, close to the city centre. If you’re travelling from outside the city, catch the NSB train to Oslo Central Station and take a short walk across the footbridge. Car parking is also available nearby.