Copenhagen Opera House



by Alice Lechner
October 9, 2023
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In this issue, Theatre around the world rubric arrives in Denmark, to be precise in Copenhagen.

Copenhagen Opera House (Operaen in Danish) is among some of the most modern Opera Houses in the world. The whole project was a donation by the A.P. Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation to the Danish state. 

The idea for a new opera House in Copenhagen was first proposed in the 1990s. In 2000, the Danish government announced an international architectural competition to design the new opera house. The winning design for the Copenhagen Opera House was submitted by the renowned Danish architect Henning Larsen. His design was chosen for its innovative and striking contemporary architecture.

Construction on the opera house began in 2001 on the island of Holmen in Copenhagen’s harbor. The construction process was complex, as the building had to be constructed partially in the water, and it involved a combination of modern engineering and traditional craftsmanship.

The architect of the Copenhagen Opera House, Henning Larsen, worked together with Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, which proved to be problematic. Mærsk wanted the building to have several features in its design: it would not become obsolete in function and appearance due to any fiscal compromise. He personally tested seats and materials, he visited many places in the world to see how opera buildings were constructed and how the building materials were looking after having been exposed over time to weather. Henning Larsen, on the other hand, was trying to make sure that the original architectural ideas were carried through the construction process, especially concerning the large glass surface front, which became a matter of great controversy and subsequent compromise.

The building seems to be on an island, due to the canals surrounding it. Oak trees planted in the early 19th century, originally purposed to recover the Danish fleet after the bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807, were used for the bridges that lead to the opera house, thus honoring the marine history of its location.

The first design of the building had large glass panels all over the front with the goal of displaying the shell of the auditorium even from the outside. The design was changed to a metal grid with smaller glass panels by Mærsk who thought that the large glass panels wouldn’t age well. The acoustics were designed by Arup Acoustics and Speirs and Major Associates designed the architectural lighting. It has a main stage with five other stages directly connected, where large setups can be moved easily in and out. The theatre can seat between 1492 and 1703, depending on the size of the orchestra. The 1492 seats are all individually angled in order to provide the best experience. The orchestra pit is one of the largest in any opera house, with room for 110 musicians. If the pit is filled, some musicians are located just below the front of the stage, which has become controversial among some members of the orchestra, because this increases the sound levels, beyond those acceptable in Denmark. However, the overhang is very slight and the authorities have permitted this to happen. The Opera has 6 main stages: 1 visible for the audience, and 5 for rehearsals and set preparation.

With the construction of the opera house completed in October 2004, the inauguration took place in January 2005. The Copenhagen Opera House is one of the world’s most modern, and well-equipped, opera houses in the world. It’s also among the most expensive opera houses with construction costs exceeding US$500 million.

It opened on January 15th, 2005, in the presence of shipping magnate Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and Queen Margrethe II. The tenor Plácido Domingo made his appearance as Sigmund in Wagner’s Die Walküre on April 7th, 2006, in a production by Kasper Bech Holten.

The house is administrated by the Royal Danish Theatre. Just like the old theatre, The Queen has her own box on the left side of the auditorium, closest to the stage. 

After the inauguration of the Opera, architect Henning Larsen took the unusual step of writing a critical book about the building and how it was built. Larsen here distances himself from the opera and calls it a “mausoleum” for Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller. In both Denmark and internationally it is unusual for an architect to publish such a disparaging critique of one of their own buildings and of the owner who commissioned the work.

Elisabeth Linton is the opera director of the Royal Danish Opera. She comes from a position as house director and chief dramaturg at Malmö Opera, where in 2019 she staged Matilda the Musical. Other assignments in Malmö include The Snow Queen (2016) and Orpheus in the Underworld (2019).

Elisabeth has previously staged the play The Three Musketeers in the Wolf Valley (2010) and the operas Under the Sky (2004), Nabucco (2010), Eugen Onegin (2013), Momo and the Time Thieves (2017) and La bohème (2016/2021) at the Royal Danish Theater.


Sir Colin Davis
Colin Rex Davis was born on September 25th, 1927, in Weybridge, Surrey, England, and was known for his exceptional interpretations of a wide range of classical and contemporary repertoire. His early exposure to music was through the clarinet, which he started playing at a young age. His interest in conducting developed during his time at...
November 2023
Alice Lechner
Teatro Massimo
We continue our Theaters around the World column, and in this issue, we arrive in Sicily, more precisely in Palermo. It is known that Teatro Massimo di Palermo was, for a long time, the third largest opera house in Europe, after Palais Garnier and Wiener Staatsoper. The construction of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily,...
November 2023
Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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