Opera House already ‘too small’

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Norway’s Opera House opened on Oslo’s waterfront just two-and-a-half years ago after years of political debate and billions of taxpayer funding, but now it’s already considered too small to handle the crowds and staffing it’s attracted.

The still-new Opera House on Oslo's waterfront is already too small to accommodate its staff and its public. PHOTO: Views and News

State officials don’t blame themselves for any lack of planning for the future, reports newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), but rather suggest the Opera is a victim of its own success.

“It’s been a challenge purely construction-wise that the Opera became such a great success,” Tora Langseth of the state building agency Statsbygg, which formally owns the Opera House. Langseth is project leader for “phase two” of the building and charged with developing more space for the staff of the Norwegian Opera and Ballet and the public.

Langseth told DN that project design began 10 years ago and “no one could have foreseen how fantastic this building would be.” Today it’s being used day and night for myriad events not just in the auditoriums but “all over, in the lobby and outdoors,” Langseth said. “That’s demanding for those trying to operate the building,” she said.

Public access to the roof of the Opera House has attracted hordes of tourists, with people wandering around the building at all hours of the day and night. An estimated 4 million people have visited the Opera since it opened on April 12, 2008 and it’s become such a popular tourist attraction that maintenance, cleaning and even use of its toilets have incurred large, unexpected costs.

Those working inside the Opera House, which cost NOK 4.3 billion (around USD 700 million) to build, already have run out of office space and meeting rooms, even though the building has 1,100 rooms spread over 49,000 square meters. Performances are regularly sold out, with people lining up for hours when the new season’s tickets go on sale.

A greatly expanded schedule of events is behind the boost in staffing to around 620, reports DN. Langseth said the need for more space for them to work is most acute.

The architectural design of the building limits options for adding on to it, so state officials reportedly are looking into every nook and cranny in an effort to get more use out of existing space. “The building wasn’t designed for expansion,” Langseth concedes.

Bjørn Simensen, who headed the Norwegian Opera when the project was launched, told DN the new Opera House “was the answer to all our dreams” when it was finished. He wouldn’t comment on how it’s serving current needs.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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