Copenhagen Opera House

Monday, 8 June 2020 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Opera Houses, Theaters, Libraries
Reading Time:  7 minutes

© Julian Herzog/cc-by-4.0

© Julian Herzog/cc-by-4.0

The Copenhagen Opera House is the national opera house of Denmark, and among the most modern opera houses in the world. It is also one of the most expensive opera houses ever built with construction costs well over US$500 million. It is located on the island of Holmen in central Copenhagen. The foundation A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal donated the Opera House to the Danish state in August 2000. Arnold Peter Møller (1876–1965) was a co-founder of the company now known as Mærsk. Some politicians were offended by the private donation, in part because the full cost of the project would be tax deductible, thus virtually forcing the government to buy the building; but the Folketing and the government accepted it in the autumn of 2000.

The Opera is located just opposite the main castle Amalienborg, home of the Danish royal family, at the shore of the harbour. The opera house is built in alignment with Amalienborg and Frederik’s Church (Frederiks Kirke), popularly known as the Marble Church (Marmorkirken) so that if one stands in the main entrance of the Opera, one can see the Marble Church over the water along the road through Amalienborg. The specific part of the island where the Opera was built is named Dokøen, which means the Dock Island. Just a few meters west of the opera, one can still see an old dock and a pumping station.

The house is administered by the Royal Danish Theatre and is one of the best-equipped in the world. 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; the structure provides excellent sound quality for the orchestra. 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 (according to tour guides in 2005), 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. During construction of the theatre, some acoustic tests were carried out with the fire curtain in place while technical work was carried out on stage, but great consideration was given to balance between pit and stage. If the orchestra is small or absent, the pit can be covered and additional seats can be added to the auditorium.

© Thue © Julian Herzog/cc-by-4.0 © flickr.com - Stephen Montgomery/cc-by-sa-2.0 © Thue
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© flickr.com - Stephen Montgomery/cc-by-sa-2.0
The building was designed by architect Henning Larsen in close and often problematic collaboration with Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller. 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 exterior is faced with Jura Gelb, a beige limestone quarried in Germany. It is situated on ground that is surrounded by canals that are designed to give the impression the structure is on an island. The bridges constructed to access the building were made from oak trees originally planted in the 19th century for use in replacing the national fleet that was lost with the bombardment of Copenhagen in September 1807. The front of the building was originally designed with large glazing panels in order to see the shell of the auditorium from the harbor side. However, Mærsk emphasized that glass does not age well, so the façade was changed to a metal grid.

The foyer floor is Sicilian Perlatino marble. The central foyer holds three spherical chandeliers created by the Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Each chandelier consists of several pieces of glass, which are semipermeable allowing some light to pass, and some to reflect. The patterns change when viewed from different angles. Designer and artist Per Arnoldi designed the logo for the opera, visible in the marble floor just inside the entrance. Painter and sculptor Per Kirkeby (1938–2018) created four bronze reliefs for the wall to the auditorium, just below the maple wood part. Per Arnoldi also designed the Front curtain for the main stage, made of multiple color threads creating a three-dimensional effect, that does not reproduce well in photographs.

The rear wall of the foyer and balcony faces are maple. The architects’ original intention was to make the wood look like that from an old violin. However using the same technique would have been far too expensive. Instead, they have tried to imitate the color using more traditional staining techniques, and the result is very close (the official homepage says differently, but the guides in the Opera tell this story). Due to the orange color and its form, it is suitably known by locals as the pumpkin.

The auditorium ceiling is gilded with about 105,000 sheets of almost pure carat (100%) gold leaf. The floor in the main auditorium is smoked oak. The balcony faces have been designed with openings in a special pattern to improve sound quality, and LED-based lighting that can be illuminated in a variety of patterns.

Read more on Copenhagen Opera House and Wikipedia Copenhagen Opera House (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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