Canons roared at noon and flags flew in honour of King Harald’s 80th birthday on Tuesday, but the official celebration will be held in May, when the government hosts a party that will also hail Queen Sonja. She’ll turn 80 on the 4th of July.
Details of the government-sponsored celebration have begun to emerge, and its host will be Prime Minister Erna Solberg. She told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend that its main event will be a grand dinner inside the glass-walled lobby of the Opera House on Oslo’s eastern waterfront.
“We’re hoping for good weather, a good mood and a taste of early summer, right by the Oslo Fjord,” Solberg told Aftenposten.
Royal birthdays celebrated by the government are traditionally held inside the historic Akershus Fortress and Castle in Oslo, as are state dinners. Akershus’ ancient rooms, however, aren’t large enough to host all the guests the royals and the government want to invite in one place.
“By moving the dinner to the beautiful, open, light lobby of the Opera, right in the heart of (the recently redeveloped) Bjørvika, the guests will also get a taste of the modern Norway,” Solberg said. Guests will include close friends and colleagues of the royal couple, along with royals from other countries. From the spacious Opera lobby, they can all also easily move into the main auditorium of the Opera House, for any entertainment that may be on offer.
The government’s gift to the royals, meanwhile, is the renovation and conversion of the old stall building located on the grounds of the Royal Palace into an art hall. Solberg said that Queen Sonja, an artist herself, is directing the entire project and she’s expected to open “Queen Sonja’s Art Hall” on her own birthday on July 4.
“It says a lot about our royal couple that they always want something that can be shared by everyone,” Solberg said. The government is also donating a digital, interactive exhibit for the Art Hall that will consist of photographs taken by Queen Maud, King Harald’s grandmother, who was Norway’s first modern queen from 1905 until her death in 1938.
There will likely be other royal 80th birthday festivities, but the climax will take place on May 10. More royal parties are planned for next year as well, when the king and queen are due to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, on August 29, 2018.