A Night at the Opera

Belated blog greetings from Norway. A fine Saturday night was spent at Oslo’s new opera house, an architectural triumph on the waterfront, looking out onto the fjord.

Oslo Opera House

I chastised my host for not getting me a front row seat – we were in the middle of the second which, as it turned out, was within spitting distance from some of the tenors. There’s nothing quite like being there to add to the experience.

It had been raining outside too, but that didn’t stop me climbing the roof to admire the view across Norway’s capital (and discover alien machines hiding in wait, ready to take over).

Alien at the opera house

Machines are waiting to take over

And before you think another British yob abroad (though clearly with more sophisticated taste than most), the roof is designed to be walked over (at your own risk). Back in Blighty I still can’t get over the absurdity that you’re not allowed to so much as dip a toe in the water of Diana’s fountain, lest you might injure yourself, and there are plenty of burly security guards on hand to tell you as much.

Norwegian wrestling championThe event was the opening night of Operafest, a collection of numbers from different composers and pieces. I felt the best came from a new opera based on Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, though it didn’t quite reach the dizzy heights of Kate Bush. As well as my good self, in attendance were the King and Queen of Norway, most of the Members of Parliament and then the Mayors and dignitaries from around the country, such as the unexpectedly glamorous Norwegian Women’s National Wrestling Champion here.

It’s impossible not to feel at home in Oslo, even extending to out singing of God Save the King in Norwegian, but to the tune of the British national anthem. And despite arriving in the country carrying only a shoulder bag, so somewhat lacking in the usual opera finery, Bjorn Simensen, Director of the Opera (with a beautiful diamond collar that matched the opera house’s crystal chandelier) was still happy to chat and enthused over the fabulous oak staircase and underwater sea defences to protect against wayward ferries.

Crystal Chandelier in the Oslo Opera HouseBjorn Simensen and Keith Mansfield

Left: opera house chandelier; right: me and Bjorn Simensen

Even better, star soprano Eli Kristin Hagen offered to sing at my Norwegian book launch (more later) and the post-opera champagne flowed while listening to ballads in the opera house foyer from a group of local soft rockers that sadly included an accordion player (by this point it’s safe to say the quality of the music had taken a downturn).Eli Kristin Hagen with Keith Mansfield

Eli and me

If you’re in Oslo, even if (like me) opera isn’t really your bag, the building’s got to be high up on your list of places to visit.
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~ by keithmansfield on May 11, 2008.

3 Responses to “A Night at the Opera”

  1. As ever, you have your finger so on the pulse that you visited the Opera House the week after the Guardian featured its ‘breathtaking’ architecture: http://arts.guardian.co.uk/art/architecture/story/0,,2275258,00.html

  2. […] wrote a short piece about visiting Oslo last year over at my Keith Mansfield website. At this time of year, I want to say a very special God Jul to all my Norwegian readers. If […]

  3. […] great way to spend a Friday night and very different indeed from my last night at the opera – with only three shows left, I hope I’m able to get back for […]

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