Opera has a short and very modest history in Norway. Prior to the establishment of the first permanent opera company, artists aiming for a professional opera career had to study and perform abroad. Notwithstanding this fact, turn-of-the-century Norway produced several talented opera singers, including Gina Oselio (1858-1935), Borghild Langaard (1882-1939), Kaja Eide Norena (1884-1968) and Ivar Frithiof Andresen (1896-1940) all of whom won international acclaim.
The establishment of Opera Comique (1918-1921), Oslo’s first permanent opera company, created opportunities for Norwegian singers to perform at home and heralded a new era for opera in Norway featuring talents such as Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962), who became well known for her interpretation of Wagner. In 1957, when the Norwegian Opera was founded, Kirsten Flagstad would become its first director.
The Norwegian Opera was originally funded by the central government and Oslo City Council, receiving 80-90 per cent of its total budget in subsidy schemes. Later it became a National Institution under the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs. The new company boosted interest in the art form and since its inception in 1957 Norway has fostered many opera artists of international standard. Noteworthy in recent years have been Aase Nordmo Løberg (b1923), Ingrid Bjoner (b1927), Anne Gjevang (b1949), Knut Skram (b1937), Elisabeth Nordberg-Schultz (b1959) and Solveig Kringlebotn (b1963). Marianne Hirsti and Randi Stene are also worth a special mention.
The Norwegian National Opera is situated in Oslo at Youngstorget. After more than a decade of parliamentary discussions, it was decided in 1999 to build the New Opera House by the docks of Bjorvika. Snohetta architects have designed a giant ice flake-shaped building on the fjord equipped to meet with the demands of international opera and dance. The building is designed to a high technical specification and will also function as a giant outdoor musical venue. 2008 will be the year of the new 'national landmark'.