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Royal Opera House, Mumbai, India
The Royal Swedish Opera, Stockholm - Famous Opera House
149    Dibyendu Banerjee    20/05/2024

The Royal Swedish Opera, locally known as Kungliga Operan, has a long history behind it. The original Stockholm Opera House, founded in 1773 by King Gustav III, a great patron of the art, was initially accommodated in a theatre house, Bollhuset or Ball House, the first theatre house in Stockholm, located behind the Royal Palace. However, King Gustav III, a strong adherent of the ideal of an enlightened absolutism, felt the need to separate the opera from the theatre and accommodate them in separate buildings. Accordingly, designed by architect Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz, construction of a new building for the Royal Swedish Opera began in 1775, and the majestic building, located on the eastern side of Gustav Adolfs torg, a public square, just across the Norrbro Bridge from the former Arvfurstens Palats, or Palace of the Hereditary Prince, was inaugurated on 30 September 1782, with a performance of Cora och Alonzo, composed by the German composer Johann Gottlieb Naumann.

the royal swedish opera stockholm

The newly constructed edifice of the Royal Swedish Opera, with its imposing centre Corinthian tetrastyle portico, featuring four supporting statues and topped with the royal crown, was considered one of the most beautiful buildings of Stockholm in those days.

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The foyer of the opera house, containing neoclassic medallions and pilasters, was lavishly decorated and the four-tiered oval auditorium, equipped with 948 seats and decorated in blue, white and gold, had excellent acoustics and sight lines, while the king’s box was located right in the middle of the Stalls Circle for the best possible view of the stage. Apart from staging quality operas, the house was also used for hosting public masquerade balls, a special kind of formal ball, in which many participants attend in costume, wearing masks.

the royal swedish opera stockholm

Unfortunately, during one of those masquerade balls on 16 March 1792, King Gustav III was shot in the foyer of the opera house by a man named Jacob Johan Anckarstrom, because of the king’s alleged affair with his wife.

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Following the injury, Gustav died 13 days later and soon it came to light that he was assassinated by a group of aristocratic conspirators opposed to the King’s near absolutist rule. Nevertheless, following the assassination of the king, the opera house remained closed for a few months and reopened on 1 November 1792, although the reigning king, Gustav IV, son of Gustav III, did not like the opera house, probably because, the place where his father was murdered was being used as a place of amusement and leisure. But when Un ballo in maschera, an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, based on the assassination of his father, was performed for his queen Frederica of Baden in 1806, he finally decided to close it down forever. However, it remained closed until 1809, and after the king was deposed in 1809, the opera house was eventually re-opened in 1812.

the royal swedish opera stockholm

Nevertheless, with the progress of time, the building of the Opera House, created by King Gustav III, became so badly dilapidated and outdated that it was demolished in 1892, providing the way to construct a new building, designed by Axel Johan Anderberg.

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It took almost seven years to complete the project and the new majestic building, with its exterior built in a neo-classical style, was inaugurated by King Oscar II on 19 September 1898, with a production of a Swedish opera.

the royal swedish opera stockholm

It is interesting to note that the Royal Swedish Opera changed its official name several times. Initially named Kongl Operan or the Royal Opera, it was eventually renamed the Kungliga Teatern or the Royal Theatre at the start of the 1900s, after several small variations on the same name, which it retained for more than 25 years. However, only since 1997, it was officially renamed the Royal Swedish Opera or Kungliga Operan. Today, the new building is popularly known simply as the Opera or Operan in local language, which is written in golden letters above the middle arch on the front façade and its entrance foyer leads up to the majestic staircase with its intricate stucco decoration. The elegant marble grand staircase leads to the three-tiered 19th century horseshoe-shaped auditorium accommodating 1200 seats, all gilt and red velvet. The magnificent Golden Foyer, located on the same level as the Stalls Circle, is richly decorated with gold stucco work on the walls and the ceiling painted by Carl Larsson, along with crystal chandeliers, sweeping mirrors, and curtains and upholstery of Florentine gold brocade. Apart from that, the basement of the opera house also contains a brasserie, a type of French restaurant with a relaxed setting, serving drinks and food to the delight of the visitors.

Royal Opera House, Mumbai, India
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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