Norwegian Opera at the Folk Theatre
The Folk Theatre (Folketeatret) in Youngstorget, Oslo was commissioned in 1935, but initially, due to financial problems, it was used as a cinema. In the years 1952–1959, the hall housed stage plays, but ultimately it could not compete with the other theatres in the city.
In 1959, the premises were rented by the Norwegian Opera (Den Norske Opera), established in 1957, with Kirsten Flagstad as the first director. At that time, Arne Nordheim was working as a music critic for the Morgenposten, and wrote about the plays which launched the activities of the Opera. In fact, he wrote regularly about operatic productions throughout his career as a music critic.
In 1974, Nordheim received a commission to write music for a ballet choreographed by Glen Tetley. Strender [Beaches] was premiered on 13 February 1974, with Marte Sæter dancing the main role, for which she received the Norwegian Critics Award. The ballet was later performed in Vienna and also in Sæter's honorary farewell performance at the Norwegian Opera in 1985. Nordheim composed the ballet music from two of his earlier electroacoustic works: Response I for two percussions and tape and the electrophonic Solitaire. The ballet was later performed many times, most recently in 2001.
Glen Tetley was an American dancer who came to Europe at the beginning of the 1960s, following a brilliant career in the US. In 1962, he enjoyed his breakthrough with the choreography to the ballet Pierre Lunaire, and for some time he was artistic director of the Netherland Dance Theatre in The Hague. From 1966, he worked with the London Rambert Ballet, and in 1973 he took over the management of the Stuttgart Ballet. He was so impressed with Arne Nordheim’s music that he sought to commission works from the Norwegian composer for the ballet companies with which he was working. In 1979, he continued his cooperation with the composer on The Tempest (Stormen), which had its world premiere in Schwetzingen. A year later, the ballet was performed at the Norwegian Opera. It was not only one of the most successful works of the Opera’s ballet company, but it became its symbol. It received rave reviews, and people would stand in long queues to get tickets, which were even distributed by touts. In 1981, the National Ballet performed The Tempest at the Bergen Festival. Over the next decade or so, this work was shown many times in new arrangements and naturally performed on tours around the US, Italy, Denmark, Finland and Germany. In the spring of 2006, it was presented for the last time on the programme of the old opera company at the Folk Theatre.
In 2008, the opera company moved to the new building in Bjørvik. At the same time, the government took over full responsibility for the former joint-stock company “Norwegian Opera”. The name was also changed, to the Norwegian Opera and Ballet (Den Norske Opera & Ballett), to stress the equal standing of both forms of artistic expression. The current address of the institution is 1 Kirsten Flagstads plass, 0150 Oslo.