The Opera Orchestra, consisting of 101 full-time orchestra musicians, has established itself in recent years as one of Norway’s leading orchestras. In the course of a season, the orchestra musicians participate in around 160 opera and ballet performances, and each season they play three to four major symphonic concerts on the main stage of the opera house.
The orchestra can trace its history back to 1827, more specifically to Strømberg Theatre, one of the first venues for opera performance in Norway. Christiania Theatre, established in 1837, and the National Theatre, which opened in 1899, remained the orchestra’s headquarters until the Norwegian National Opera opened its doors at Youngstorget in 1959.
When the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet moved into its iconic new building at Bjørvika in 2008, the orchestra finally had its own rehearsal and performance spaces with world-class acoustics.
Since the establishment of the symphonic concert series, renowned names such as Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Leif Segerstam, Alexander Lazarev, Michail Jurowski and Hartmut Haenchen have appeared as guest conductors and have, together with the orchestra, created many magical moments. In addition to performances and concerts, the orchestra musicians also produce their own chamber music series on Stage 2.
The musicians’ most important collective objective is to create the best possible orchestral framework for the performances of the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet. The orchestra garners fine reviews both in Norway and abroad. Moreover, over many years the orchestra has had a productive collaboration with Rinaldo Alessandrini in performances of Handel and Mozart operas, among others, and with Alessandrini as conductor it released a critically acclaimed recording of opera overtures of W. A. Mozart. Listeners can also enjoy the Opera Orchestra’s contributions to recordings by sopranos Eli Kristin Hanssveen and Marita Sølberg, conducted by John Helmer Fiore.
In the autumn of 2016, the orchestra received the Tom Wilhelmsen Opera and Ballet Prize of one million Norwegian crowns. The prize enabled the orchestra to go on tour, giving concerts in Copenhagen and Helsinki in the autumn of 2017.