In most cases, an opera house represents a means to an end. Then there’s the new Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. It opened in April last year, and still the crowds are coming. Getting a seat verges on impossible, but the majority of visitors are content to wander the building, inside and out, downstairs and up, looking around. It’s that kind of a place.

Designed by Norway’s most celebrated architectural practice, Snøhetta, this is one of those rare and remarkable structures that perform brilliantly even when the curtain’s down. It’s a gathering spot, vantage point, outdoor performance venue, playground, café, as well as a catalyst of economic, cultural and social change and urban renewal. It also comprises three halls, numerous rehearsal rooms, an opera and ballet “factory” with 600 workers, and several public restaurants.

Sitting on the shores of the Oslofjord just eight lanes of highway away from downtown Oslo and its busiest public space – the square in front of the central train station – the $800-million facility is the city’s most popular attraction. Even on a weekday morning, people are pouring out of large tour buses to clamber up and over this unique building.


Christopher Hume
The Star