Royal Swedish Opera
The Royal Swedish Opera.
General information
Town or cityStockholm
Coordinates59°19′47″N 18°04′14″E / 59.32972°N 18.07056°E / 59.32972; 18.07056
Design and construction
Architect(s)Axel Johan Anderberg
The original building of the Royal Swedish Opera, Bollhuset at Slottsbacken in Stockholm, during the 1780s. From right to left: Stockholm Palace, Storkyrkan, Bollhuset Theatre and the Tessin Palace. Drawing, Martin Rudolf Heland.
The Royal Swedish Opera, 1934

Royal Swedish Opera (Swedish: Kungliga Operan) is an opera and ballet company based in Stockholm, Sweden.

Location and environment

The building is located in the center of Sweden's capital Stockholm in the borough of Norrmalm, on the eastern side of Gustav Adolfs torg across from the former Arvfurstens Palats, now Ministry for Foreign Affairs. It lies on the north side of the Norrström river and is connected to the Royal Palace through the Norrbro bridge.

Further historically as well as architecturally important buildings in the close neighborhood are the Sager House, official residence of the Prime Minister of Sweden, and the Riksdag building.


The opera company was founded with the Royal Swedish Academy of Music by King Gustav III and its first performance, Thetis and Phelée with Carl Stenborg and Elisabeth Olin, was given on 18 January 1773; this was the first native speaking opera performed in Sweden.

But the first opera house was not opened until 1782 and served for a century before being replaced at the end of the 19th century. Both houses are officially called the "Royal Opera", however the terms "The Gustavian Opera" and "The Oscarian Opera", or the "Old" and "New" Opera are used when distinction is needed.

The Gustavian Opera

The original Stockholm Opera House, the work of architect Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz was commissioned by King Gustav III, a strong adherent of the ideal of an enlightened absolutism and as such was a great patron of the arts. The Swedish Opera company had first been located in Bollhuset, but there was a need to separate the Opera from the theatre and give them separate buildings. Construction began in 1775 and the theatre was inaugurated on 30 September 1782 with a performance of the German composer Johann Gottlieb Naumann's Cora och Alonzo. It was also the place for public masquerade balls, events inspired from the famous opera-balls in Paris, which was open for everyone wearing a mask at a cheap cost and somewhat ill-reputed.

The Gustavian opera building in 1880

The building was very imposing with its centre Corinthian tetrastyle portico supporting four statues and topped by the royal crown. The four-tiered auditorium was oval in shape, had excellent acoustics and sight lines. The sumptuous foyer contained neoclassic medallions and pilasters.

It was in the foyer of the opera house where the king met his fate: during a masquerade on 16 March 1792, he was shot by Jacob Johan Anckarström, and died 13 days later. (In turn, this event inspired the operas Gustave III by Daniel Auber and Un ballo in maschera by Verdi.) Following the assassination, the opera house was closed until 1 November 1792, when it was opened again, which by some was considered shocking. The son of Gustav III, King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden, did not like the Opera, possibly because of the murder of his father, and disliked the fact that the scene of his father's murder was used as a place of amusement and leisure, and when a frivolous play was performed for his queen Frederica of Baden in 1806, he decided to close it down. It remained closed until 1809, and when the king was deposed, it took until May 1812, before it was organised enough to be fully opened again.

The Oscarian Opera, Operan

Operans Guldfoajén: The Golden Hall (with a bust of Swedish singer Birgit Nilsson) at the Royal Swedish Opera.

The old opera was demolished in 1892 to give way to the construction of a new Opera drawn by Axel Johan Anderberg, which was finished seven years later and inaugurated by King Oscar II with a production of a Swedish opera (that tradition having been quite firmly established during the 19th century), Franz Berwald's Estrella de Soria.

The new house had the letters Kungl. Teatern, literally "Royal Theatre" (which caused the later-founded Royal Dramatic Theatre to add the distinction "dramatic" to its name). The building is now simply called Operan ("The Opera"), written in golden letters above the middle arch on the front facade. It is a majestic neo-classical building with a magnificent gold foyer (Guldfoajén) and elegant marble grand staircase leading to a three-tiered auditorium somewhat smaller than the old theatre. It presently seats 1,200. Most productions are now sung in the original language (with Swedish subtitles), with only a few in Swedish.

The Royal Swedish Family of King Carl XVI Gustaf keeps the Royal Box reserved, located in the first tier in the auditorium above the orchestra pit.

Ensembles, artists and artistic leadership

Interior of the Opera

Famous singers who have been part of the opera's ensemble have included Jussi Björling, Gösta Winbergh, Nicolai Gedda, Peter Mattei, Jenny Lind, Birgit Nilsson, Elisabeth Söderström, Fritz Arlberg, Anne Sofie von Otter, Katarina Dalayman and Nina Stemme.

The orchestra of the Royal Swedish Opera, the Royal Swedish Orchestra, Kungliga Hovkapellet, dates back to 1526. Royal housekeeping accounts from 1526 mention twelve musicians including wind players and a timpanist but no string players. Consequently, the Royal Swedish Orchestra is one of the oldest orchestras in Europe.

Armas Järnefelt was on the music staff from 1905, rising to become chief conductor between 1923–1933 and 1938–1946.[1][2] The Royal Swedish Ballet, Kungliga Baletten, was founded by Gustav III of Sweden in 1773.

The current general manager of the Royal Swedish Opera is the Swedish mezzo-soprano Birgitta Svendén. She is currently contracted in the post through 2022. In November 2020, the company announced the appointment of Michael Cavanagh as its next artistic director, effective in the summer of 2021, with an initial contract of 5 years.[3] The company's most recent chief conductor was Lawrence Renes, who held the post from 2012[4] through 2017.[5] In January 2020, Royal Swedish Opera announced the appointment of Alan Gilbert as its next music director, effective in the spring of 2021. Gilbert had first guest-conducted with the company in 2012.[5]



  1. ^ "Edvard Armas Järnefelt" (in Swedish). Kungliga Hovkapellet. 14 December 2007. Archived from the original on 30 August 2023. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  2. ^ Photo of Järnefelt Archived 2023-08-30 at the Wayback Machine conducting the Royal Swedish Orchestra during the Opera House's 400th anniversary celebrations (in Swedish). Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  3. ^ "Michael Cavanagh ny operachef på Kungliga Operan" (Press release). Royal Swedish Opera. 30 November 2020. Retrieved 4 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Lawrence Renes – Ny chefdirigent på Kungliga Operan" (Press release) (in Swedish). Kungliga Operan. 30 November 2011. Archived from the original on 19 January 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Conductor Alan Gilbert Named Next Music Director of Royal Swedish Opera". Opera News. 16 January 2020. Archived from the original on 26 January 2020. Retrieved 20 January 2020.