This newsletter will take you on a tour of the Swedish opera’s history and its Opera House.
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Once upon a time, long ago

The Royal Swedish Opera has been Sweden’s National Stage for the Opera arts since January 18, 1773, when the first performance was given. Two years earlier, King Gustaf III had dismissed the French opera ensemble that for twenty years had performed in Bollhuset at Slottsbacken in Stockholm.
King Gustav III wanted to create a Swedish ensemble that could perform operas in Swedish. The Swedish ensemble gave performance in Bollhuset for eleven years until 1782 when the new Opera House was completed and the ensemble could move in.

This newsletter will take you on a tour of the Swedish opera’s history and its Opera House.
Click on the pictures to see them in a larger format with all the details.


King Gustav III’s Opera House

On September 30, 1782 the new Stockholm Opera House, designed by architect Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz, officially opened. King Gustav III had a passion for opera, dance and theater and financed the operation with his own funds.

Barely ten years after the inauguration, on March 16, 1792, King Gustav III was shot at a masquerade ball at the opera, and died on March 29. The event is the inspiration for Verdi’s opera, Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball).

The Gustavian Opera House remained standing for another hundred years after the King’s death. By then the building was so worn, outdated and flammable, that in 1892 it was decided to demolish it. Even today you can see what the old Opera House looked like by looking straight across Gustav Adolf square where Arvfurstens Palace is located, currently the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.


The new Opera House

The new Opera House was erected in the same location, and named The Oscarian Opera after reigning monarch Oscar II. The architect for the new Opera House was Axel Anderberg, who worked in a neoclassical style. It took almost seven years to complete the new Opera House. During that time the Stockholm Opera House ensemble performed in the Swedish Theater on Blasieholmen, that much later burned to the ground in a devastating fire.

The exterior of the new building was built in neo-Renaissance style, while the staircase, foyer and auditorium were designed in the neo-Baroque style. Here details from the Royal Palace, Arvfurstens palace and the Riksdag building can be seen. Even the Opera House’s color scheme ties in nicely with the Riksdag building and the Royal Palace.

The Golden Foyer

With ceiling paintings by Carl Larsson, the Golden Foyer reminds us of the Opéra Garnier in Paris. After nearly 100 years the Opera House underwent a major renovation in 1989. All public spaces in the building were repaired, cleaned, painted and re-gilded, from the main entrance to the main auditorium. Today, we can relive the Opera House in all its original splendor and exactly in the condition it was at the opening ceremony.
At least two days a week, there is a lunchtime concert in the Golden Foyer featuring the Royal Opera’s own singers and musicians as well as other prominent artists.

The Royal Rooms

From a separate entrance on Strömgatan a magnificent stairway leads up to the royal rooms Here are the Royal Box, the Royal Court’s Box, the Queen’s Room and the King’s Foyer. The Royal Rooms are built as a tribute to Oscar II and his family, and officially allowed for use by the royal family only.

The left image shows the entrance into the Royal Box and the Royal Salon. The right image shows the upper part of the staircase with ceiling stucco features in white marble. Below you can see the Royal Salon.


Al fresco decorations

In the main hall you can see seven ceiling paintings by Georg Pauli (1855-1935). Besides being a writer and debater, he was one of Sweden’s main fresco artists. Fresco technique uses powdered pigments mixed with lime water and applied directly to wet plaster. It makes the al fresco technique more sustainable compared to the al secco technique painted on dry plaster.

The wall paintings were done by the more renowned Swedish Prince Eugen (1865-1947).

The beauty in between

Having entered the Opera House, it is easy to be blinded by the magnificence. While more austere, the public staircases are also splendid with many fine details. The left image shows a large ventilator hidden behind an art forged lattice. You do not want to think about how the ventilator might have looked using today’s building standards.

The Main Stage

The Opera House is home to the Royal Ballet, the Royal Opera and the Royal Opera Choir. Of performances on the Royal Opera stage, 60 percent are opera and 40 percent ballet. In the main salon there are about 1,100 seats, divided into the main floor and three rows.


Angel with drawing

The ceiling painting is made by artist Vicke Andrén (1856-1930). If you look carefully (click on the picture to see the details) in the top left corner you will see a small angel holding a drawing of the Opera House while soaring high above the audience.


The chandelier manages ventilation

With over 1,000 rooms and thirteen floors the Opera House is a complex mix of cultural building and vibrant music scene, with high and varied demands on ventilation and indoor climate control. Today, the Opera House has more than a hundred ventilation systems and the main fan alone handles 140,000 cubic meters of air per hour. The base of the two-ton chandelier also manages the supply of air in the salon. Once a year, it is hoisted it down for maintenance.


Tomorrow’s Opera House

Despite its splendid building, today the Royal Opera suffers from overcrowding and major environmental weaknesses. In December of 2016 the government gave the go-ahead to renovate and expand the Opera House. The renovation is expected to be completed in 2025 and is the largest construction project that the National Property Board has ever tackled.

Visit the Opera

Enjoy the opera or ballet. Click here
See and experience the building with guided tours. Click here
Wine and dine at the Opera House’s restaurants. Click here
Eat and drink at Operakällaren. Click here
Lasse Olsson Photo photographs interiors, architecture and lighting. My newsletter is published 6-8 times a year. It presents photographed projects and reports from furniture fairs in Milan and Stockholm.