Things to do

A guided tour of the Copenhagen Opera House

The tour is indoors and can be made all year round. Our writer was lucky enough that her tour fell on a sunny day. Do not miss out on seeing the Copenhagen Opera House while you live in Denmark, with or without a performance.

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By Lisa White   Pictures: Bente D. Knudsen, Lisa White

On a sunny Saturday afternoon at the Copenhagen Opera House, located on the island of Holmen, it’s just as bright indoors as outdoors.

It appears as you enter the architectural masterpiece that it sparkles, literally sparkles. First impressions are everything and this place exceeds expectations of any Opera House.

The three identical steel spiral chandeliers, overlaid in colour filtered glass arranged in faceted diamond patterns, immediately catch your attention as you enter. Designed by Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, the chandeliers offer an upward view of a luminous star light skyline with balconies and catwalks visible from all angles. The space is airy as well as inviting.

In the open air 42-meter-high foyer a group of approximately 30 of us wait for the hour and half tour to begin. Those of us who speak English are led by our tour guide Anders Skisbsted, a musician working at the opera. Anders begins the tour by telling us about what inspired the making of the Opera House back in the late 1990s.

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The $442 million building, 41,000 square metered space was at the time (of its building) marked by an important controversy between the architect, renowned Henning Larsen, and the owner of the conglomerate business company A.P. Møller, Mr. Mærsk McKinney Møller; they disagreed immensely over the outer design of the building.

As it was the shipping mogul’s foundation, the A.P. Møller foundation, which funded the project and presented it as a gift to the citizens of Denmark, the foundation (and its owner) ultimately had the final say as to how the finished Opera House would be designed.

So much so, that on the highly anticipated red-carpet debut on a cold winter day in January 2005, the opening did not, unfortunately, come with the blessings of Architect Henning Larsen.

Equally impressive as the chandeliers, is the Danish maple wood shelling which encases the upper part of the House; polished and shined to look like a wooded string instrument. Underneath the green wall mimics the colour of the harbour water.

Experiencing all this creativity in the foyer alone is most delightful.

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Inside the theatre, the 1,468 blue velour seats, the colour of water, are not your typical opera house red but match well with the water surrounding the building outside.

With five interchangeable stages and a beautiful orchestra pit, the house is built for momentous performances. The ceiling is made of 24 gold leaf which was meticulously glued on by hand.

The tour included also backstage access where stage technical and creative professionals were busy preparing for the upcoming performance. The behind the scenes structure also houses a 200-seat black box room, a theatre room, an education room, and an orchestral rehearsal rubber insulated room on the first floor of the underground locations.

A tour of the Copenhagen Opera House made a delightful afternoon learning about not only the building itself but the history of the oldest royal orchestra in Europe.

A recommended adventure for anyone doing the Danish Life experience.

Tours in English take place only during the weekend, Danish tours also on weekdays. Price: DKK 120. Find the tour calendar here: