Royal Swedish Opera

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The Royal Swedish Opera. View from the Royal Palace across Norrbro bridge Kungliga-operan-2003-04-14.jpg
The Royal Swedish Opera. View from the Royal Palace across Norrbro bridge
The original building of the Royal Swedish Opera, Bollhuset at Slottsbacken in Stockholm, during the 1780s. From right to left: Stockholm Palace, Storkyrkan, Bollhuset Theatre and the Tessin Palace. Drawing, Martin Rudolf Heland. Stora Bollhuset 1780.jpg
The original building of the Royal Swedish Opera, Bollhuset at Slottsbacken in Stockholm, during the 1780s. From right to left: Stockholm Palace, Storkyrkan, Bollhuset Theatre and the Tessin Palace. Drawing, Martin Rudolf Heland.
The Royal Swedish Opera, 1934 Gustaf Adolfs torg 1934.jpg
The Royal Swedish Opera, 1934

Royal Swedish Opera (Swedish : Kungliga Operan) is Sweden's national stage for opera and ballet.

Swedish language North Germanic language spoken in Sweden

Swedish is a North Germanic language spoken natively by 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden, and in parts of Finland, where it has equal legal standing with Finnish. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and to some extent with Danish, although the degree of mutual intelligibility is largely dependent on the dialect and accent of the speaker. Written Norwegian and Danish are usually more easily understood by Swedish speakers than the spoken languages, due to the differences in tone, accent and intonation. Swedish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. It has the most speakers of the North Germanic languages. While being strongly related to its southern neighbour language German in vocabulary, the word order, grammatic system and pronunciation are vastly different.

Sweden constitutional monarchy in Northern Europe

Sweden, officially the Kingdom of Sweden, is a Scandinavian Nordic country in Northern Europe. It borders Norway to the west and north and Finland to the east, and is connected to Denmark in the southwest by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund Strait. At 450,295 square kilometres (173,860 sq mi), Sweden is the largest country in Northern Europe, the third-largest country in the European Union and the fifth largest country in Europe by area. The capital city is Stockholm. Sweden has a total population of 10.3 million of which 2.5 million have a foreign background. It has a low population density of 22 inhabitants per square kilometre (57/sq mi) and the highest urban concentration is in the central and southern half of the country.

Opera Artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.


Location and environment

The building is located in the center of Sweden's capital Stockholm in the borough of Norrmalm, on the eastern side of Gustav Adolfs torg across from the former Arvfurstens Palats, now Ministry for Foreign Affairs. It lies on the north side of the Norrström river and is connected to the Royal Palace through the Norrbro bridge.

Stockholm Capital of Sweden

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous urban area in the Nordic countries; 965,232 people live in the municipality, approximately 1.6 million in the urban area, and 2.4 million in the metropolitan area. The city stretches across fourteen islands where Lake Mälaren flows into the Baltic Sea. Outside the city to the east, and along the coast, is the island chain of the Stockholm archipelago. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252 by Swedish statesman Birger Jarl. It is also the county seat of Stockholm County.

Norrmalm (borough) Borough of Stockholm in Sweden

Norrmalm is a borough (stadsdelsområde) in central Stockholm, named after the dominating district.

Gustav Adolfs torg, Stockholm square in central Stockholm, Sweden

Gustav Adolfs torg is a public square in central Stockholm, Sweden.

Further historically as well as architecturally important buildings in the close neighborhood are the Sager House, official residence of the Prime Minister of Sweden, and the Riksdag building.

Sager House building in central Stockholm

The Sager House or Sager Palace is the official residence of the Prime Minister of Sweden, located at Strömgatan 18 in central Stockholm.

Prime Minister of Sweden Head of government of Sweden

The Prime Minister is the head of government in Sweden. Before the creation of the office of a Prime Minister in 1876, Sweden did not have a head of government separate from its head of state, namely the King, in whom the executive authority was vested. Louis Gerhard De Geer, the architect behind the new bicameral Riksdag of 1866 that replaced the centuries-old Riksdag of the Estates, became the first officeholder in 1876.


The opera company was founded by King Gustav III and its first performance, Thetis and Phelée with Carl Stenborg and Elisabeth Olin, was given on January 18, 1773; this was the first native speaking opera performed in Sweden.

Gustav III of Sweden King of Sweden from 1771 to 1792

Gustav III was King of Sweden from 1771 until his assassination in 1792. He was the eldest son of Adolf Frederick, King of Sweden and Queen Louise Ulrika, and a first cousin of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia by reason of their common descent from Christian August of Holstein-Gottorp, Prince of Eutin, and his wife Albertina Frederica of Baden-Durlach.

Carl Stenborg Swedish opera singer

Carl Stenborg was a Swedish opera singer, composer and theatre director. He belonged to the pioneer generation of the Royal Swedish Opera and was regarded as one of the leading opera singers of the Gustavian era. He was a hovsångare and a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.

Elisabeth Olin singer

Elisabeth Olin née Lillström was a Swedish opera singer and a music composer. She performed the leading female role in the inauguration performance of the Royal Swedish Opera in 1773, and is referred to as the first Swedish opera prima donna. She was the first female to be made Hovsångerska (1773), and the first woman to become a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music (1782).

But the first opera house was not opened until 1782 and served for a century before being replaced at the end of the 19th century. Both houses are officially called the "Royal Opera", however the terms "The Gustavian Opera" and "The Oscarian Opera", or the "Old" and "New" Opera are used when distinction is needed.

Opera house theatre building used for opera performances

An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building.

The Gustavian Opera

The original Stockholm Opera House, the work of architect Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz was commissioned by King Gustav III, a strong adherent of the ideal of an enlightened absolutism and as such was a great patron of the arts. The Swedish Opera company had first been located in Bollhuset, but there was a need to separate the Opera from the theatre and give them separate buildings. Construction began in 1775 and the theatre was inaugurated on 30 September 1782 with a performance of the German composer Johann Gottlieb Naumann's Cora och Alonzo. It was also the place for public masquerade balls, events inspired from the famous opera-balls in Paris, which was open for everyone wearing a mask at a cheap cost and somewhat ill-reputed.

Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz Swedish architect

Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz was a Swedish architect and civil servant. Adelcrantz's style developed from a rococo influenced by Carl Hårleman, the leading architect in Sweden in the early years of his career, to a classical idiom influenced by the stylistic developments in France in the mid-to-late 18th century. As överintendent, he headed the royal and public building works from 1767 until his retirement in 1795.

Enlightened absolutism refers to the conduct and policies of European absolute monarchs during the 18th and 19th centuries who were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, espousing them to enhance their power. The concept originated during the Enlightenment period in the 18th and into the early 19th centuries.

Bollhuset former jeu de paume building, later theatre in Stockholm, Sweden

Bollhuset, also called Stora Bollhuset, Bollhusteatern, and Gamla Bollhuset at various times, was the name of the first theater in Stockholm, Sweden; it was the first Swedish theater and the first real theater building in the whole of Scandinavia. The name "Bollhuset" means "The Ball House", and it was built in 1627 for ball sports and used in this way for forty years. The name Lejonkulan, however, was in fact the name of a different building, which was also used by the same theater in the 17th century.

The Gustavian opera building in 1880 Operan GustavIII 1880.jpg
The Gustavian opera building in 1880

The building was very imposing with its centre Corinthian tetrastyle portico supporting four statues and topped by the royal crown. The four-tiered auditorium was oval in shape, had excellent acoustics and sight lines. The sumptuous foyer contained neoclassic medallions and pilasters.

It was in the foyer of the opera house where the king met his fate: during a masquerade on March 16, 1792, he was shot by Jacob Johan Anckarström, and died 7 days later. (In turn, this event inspired the operas Gustave III by Daniel Auber and Un ballo in maschera by Verdi.) Following the assassination, the opera house was closed until 1 November 1792, when it was opened again, which by some was considered shocking. The son of Gustav III, King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden, did not like the Opera, possibly because of the murder of his father, and disliked the fact that the scene of his father's murder was used as a place of amusement and leisure, and when a frivolous play was performed for his queen Frederica of Baden in 1806, he decided to close it down. It remained closed until 1809, and when the king was deposed, it took until May 1812, before it was organised enough to be fully opened again.

The Oscarian Opera, Operan

Operans Guldfoajen: The Golden Hall (with a bust of Swedish singer Birgit Nilsson) at the Royal Swedish Opera. Operan 1978 4a.jpg
Operans Guldfoajén: The Golden Hall (with a bust of Swedish singer Birgit Nilsson) at the Royal Swedish Opera.

The old opera was demolished in 1892 to give way to the construction of a new Opera drawn by Axel Johan Anderberg, which was finished seven years later and inaugurated by King Oscar II with a production of a Swedish opera (that tradition having been quite firmly established during the 19th century), Franz Berwald's Estrella de Soria .

The new house had the letters Kungl. Teatern, literally "Royal Theatre" (which caused the later-founded Royal Dramatic Theatre to add the distinction "dramatic" to its name). The building is now simply called Operan ("The Opera"), written in golden letters above the middle arch on the front facade. It is a majestic neo-classical building with a magnificent gold foyer (Guldfoajén) and elegant marble grand staircase leading to a three-tiered auditorium somewhat smaller than the old theatre. It presently seats 1,200. Most productions are now sung in the original language (with Swedish subtitles), with only a few in Swedish.

The Royal Swedish Family of King Carl XVI Gustaf keeps the Royal Box reserved, located in the first tier in the auditorium above the orchestra pit.

Ensembles, artists and artistic leadership

Famous singers who originally were (or still are) part of the opera's ensemble are Jussi Björling, Gösta Winbergh, Nicolai Gedda, Peter Mattei, Jenny Lind, Birgit Nilsson, Elisabeth Söderström, Anne Sofie von Otter, Katarina Dalayman and Nina Stemme.

The orchestra of the Royal Swedish Opera, the Royal Swedish Orchestra, Kungliga Hovkapellet , dates back to 1526. Royal housekeeping accounts from 1526 mention twelve musicians including wind players and a timpanist but no string players. Consequently, the Royal Swedish Orchestra is one of the oldest orchestras in Europe.

Armas Järnefelt was on the music staff from 1905, rising to become chief conductor between 1923–1933 and 1938–1946. [1] [2] The Royal Swedish Ballet, Kungliga Baletten, was founded by Gustav III of Sweden in 1773.

The current general manager of the Royal Swedish Opera is the Swedish mezzo-soprano Birgitta Svendén. In November 2011, the Dutch conductor Lawrence Renes was named the next chief conductor of the company, as of the 2012–13 season, with an initial contract through the 2016–17 season. [3]

Related Research Articles

Jacob Johan Anckarström Assassin of Gustav III, military captain

Jacob Johan Anckarström was a Swedish military officer who assassinated Gustav III, king of Sweden. He was convicted and executed for regicide.

Royal Dramatic Theatre theater in Stockholm, Sweden

The Royal Dramatic Theatre is Sweden's national stage for "spoken drama", founded in 1788. Around one thousand shows are put on annually on the theatre's eight running stages.

Royal Swedish Ballet

The Royal Swedish Ballet is one of the oldest ballet companies in Europe. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, King Gustav III founded the ballet in 1773 as a part of his national cultural project in response to the French and Italian dominance in this field; he also founded the Royal Swedish Opera and the Royal Dramatic Theatre. All of these were initially located in the old theatre of Bollhuset. The troupe was founded with the opening of the Royal Swedish Opera, which has served as its home since that time.

Armas Järnefelt Finnish composer and conductor

Edvard Armas Järnefelt, was a Finnish conductor and composer, who achieved some minor success with his orchestral works Berceuse and Praeludium. He spent much of his conducting career at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm, Sweden.

Caroline Müller (1755-1826) Danish and later Swedish singer, dancer and actor

Caroline Frederikke Müller née Halle also known as Caroline Walther, was a Danish and later naturalized Swedish opera singer (mezzo-soprano). She was also active as an instructor at the Dramatens elevskola. She was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music and a Hovsångare.

Lovisa Augusti singer

Lovisa Sofia Augusti was a Swedish opera singer (soprano). She was regarded as one of the most noted opera singers of the Royal Swedish Opera during the Gustavian era. She was appointed Hovsångare in 1773 and inducted to the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1788.

Marie Louise Marcadet Swedish opera singer

Marie Louise Marcadet née Baptiste was a Swedish opera singer and a dramatic stage actress of French origin. She was ative in the Royal Swedish Opera as a singer, and in the Royal Dramatic Theatre and the French Theater of Gustav III as an actress. She was a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music from 1795.

Inga Åberg was a Swedish actress and opera singer. She was engaged as an opera singer at the Royal Swedish Opera, and as a stage actress at the Royal Dramatic Theater, between 1787 and 1810.

Hedvig "Hedda" Katarina Hjortsberg also known as Hedda Koersner was a Swedish ballerina who starred for the Royal Swedish Ballet. She was the sister of the Swedish actor Lars Hjortsberg.

Christoffer Christian Karsten Swedish actor and singer

Christoffer ChristianKarsten was a Swedish opera singer. He was the maternal grandfather of the ballerina Marie Taglioni.

Lars Hjortsberg Swedish actor

Lars Hjortsberg was a Swedish stage actor. He belonged to the pioneer generation of elite actors of the Royal Dramatic Theatre and has, alongside Emilie Högquist, been referred to as the most famous Swedish actor of the first half of the 19th-century.

Franziska Stading Swedish opera singer

Sofia Franziska Stading was a Swedish opera singer of German origin. She is referred to as one of the more notable opera singers in Sweden during the Gustavian era. She was a Hovsångare and member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music from 1788.

Hedvig Christina Wigert née Falk was a Swedish opera singer. She belonged to the pioneer generation of performers of the Royal Swedish Opera.

Kungliga Hovkapellet is a Swedish orchestra, originally part of the Royal Court in Sweden's capital Stockholm. Its existence was first recorded in 1526. Since 1773 it is part of the Royal Swedish Opera's company.

The titles Hovsångare for men and Hovsångerska for women are awarded by the Swedish monarch to a singer who, by their vocal art, has contributed to the international standing of Swedish singing. The formal title was introduced by King Gustav III of Sweden in 1773, with the first recipients being Elisabeth Olin and Carl Stenborg. The position as such, however, dates back to the 17th century, when Anne Chabanceau de La Barre and Joseph Chabanceau de La Barre were singers at the court of Queen Christina of Sweden.

Johan Fredrik Berwald was a Swedish violinist, conductor and composer. He was a cousin of Franz Berwald and August Berwald.



  1. "Edvard Armas Järnefelt" (in Swedish). Kungliga Hovkapellet. 2007-12-14. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  2. Photo of Järnefelt conducting the Royal Swedish Orchestra during the Opera House's 400th anniversary celebrations (in Swedish). Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  3. "Lawrence Renes – Ny chefdirigent på Kungliga Operan" (Press release) (in Swedish). Kungliga Operan. 30 November 2011. Archived from the original on 19 January 2012. Retrieved 2011-12-25.