Page last updated at 22:30 GMT, Saturday, 12 April 2008 23:30 UK

Norway king opens new opera house

Oslo Opera House (12 April 2008)
Visitors can walk up the opera house's sloping stone roof from the fjord

Norway's King Harald V has opened the country's national opera house in Oslo at a gala performance attended by royalty and other national leaders.

The $835m (424m) white marble landmark on the shore of the Oslo Fjord in the heart of the capital fulfils a long-held dream for local music fans.

The 1,350-strong audience on Saturday included German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Denmark's Queen Margrethe.

The opera house is the largest cultural centre built in Norway in 700 years.

The Norwegian parliament's decision to approve its construction in 1999 ended more than 120 years of debate and waiting for a national opera house.

From the outside, the most striking feature is the sloping stone roof, made up of 36,000 fitted pieces, which seems to rise from the water of the fjord.

King Harald with Queen Sonja at the Oslo opera house
Innermost in the Oslo Fjord, the opera house rises as a new and monumental landmark
King Harald V

It has been described by the Norwegian architects, Snoehetta, as a "fifth wall", designed so visitors can walk up the gentle incline to the top, and look out over the city and the fjord.

The inside of the 1,000-room building has been lined with crafted woodwork and decorated with about $12m of art.

"Innermost in the Oslo Fjord, the opera house rises as a new and monumental landmark," said King Harald at the inaugural concert on Saturday evening.

"This house for many generations to come will be filled with music, dance and song."

The director of Norwegian Opera & Ballet, Bjoern Simonsen, said the building would "change the way the world sees us, and the way we see ourselves".

Country profile: Norway
03 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

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