Kungliga Operan – Stockholm / Swan Lake – Review

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Following on from my previous post about the Theatrical Sites in StockholmI’ve saved my highlight for its own post. It’s also a double whammy of a review too – both the Opera House and the Ballet we saw there.

So first of all the Kungliga Operan, in one word, WOW. What a stunning opera house. Lavish, luxuriant and stylish with friendly staff made for it being a perfect night out.

The Outside of the Kungliga Operan

The outside of the Kungliga Operan

We were fortunate to sit in the area which is actually reserved for the King’s household (unbeknownst to me when I purchased the tickets) and tickets for this are released only the last few days prior to the show if not needed. I could get used to theatre seats that are like armchairs, and a great view! Thanks to a very friendly local couple we sat next to, they gave us a peek of the Kings Gallery and private staircase which are located nearby during the interval.

Inside it is rather spectacular too - The King's Gallery,  © Alexander Kenney / Operan Kungliga

Inside it is rather spectacular too – The King’s Gallery, © Alexander Kenney / Operan Kungliga

Most comfortable theatre seat award goes to Kungliga Operan!

Most comfortable theatre seat award goes to Kungliga Operan!

Main staircase of the Opera House

Main staircase of the Opera House

The ceiling above the main stairs

The ceiling above the main stairs

During the second interval our kind locals sitting next to us asked if we’d been to the Golden Hall? We advised we hadn’t, “oh you MUST come and see it!” so off we went. Alas as I’d not expected to need to take photos I didn’t have my camera on me and I can’t find any pics online. Suffice to say it is a hall that is lit by magnificent chandeliers and the entire room is covered in gold. Rumour has it the room is entirely gold leaf, whether it is or not, I so glad they made sure we saw it.

I was also pleasantly surprised at the reasonable cost of attending the Kungliga Operan, comparative seating in the Covent Garden Royal Opera House, would easily have cost four times as much and people told me Stockholm was an expensive city! Certainly not for ballet or opera. I may start getting a cheap flight and seeing more there, as that’ll still be cheaper the way West End is going.

So to the ballet:

I’ve seen Swan Lake a few times but not recently. Previous occasions have all been Russian companies and so it was gripping to see how another school of ballet would deal with this iconic piece. I have to say I liked the understated subtlety and focus on the story telling they gave it. The dancers had their chance to wow us and show us what they could do, but the narrative of the piece was the centre point. So much so, that a full act I don’t ever recall seeing in my previous versions! I’m sure it must have been in them as I remember the score from them, but clearly they failed to connect the story to me. Whereas this time each act developed the story and built on the last act. I especially liked the quick change of Odette from Princess to swan, it was so magical.

Obviously pride in ones own Royal Ballet prevents me from saying the  Swedish Royal Ballet were better. However they were not quite as slick as ours and this could have been due to one of the dancers injuring themselves and having to bow out of the final act. In no way though is this a slight on the company. They gave charming performances and we had a wonderful time viewing their Swan Lake.

This was seen on my last night in Stockholm, a fine ending to a fantastic week there. I wish we’d had time for an official tour of the Kungliga Operan and should we return, we’ll make a point of doing that. If you are in Stockholm make sure you visit the Kungliga Operan!

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Theatrical Sites of Stockholm

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I’ve just returned from a lovely holiday in Stockholm. Whilst there I took in a few of the theatrical sites, I saw Swan Lake at the Kungliga Operan a full review of that stunning Opera House and ballet will follow in a day or so.

After we’d decided to head off to Stockholm I consulted my trusty DK Eyewitness Guide and noticed that there was an August Strindberg Museum actually based in his finally residence, that went on my list of must sees, and in fact we visited it on our first day there.

Strindberg's Desk

Strindberg’s Desk

Following a trip up three floors in a “Thoroughly Modern Millie” lift as my wife called it, we arrived at the museum. Half of it is his apartment as it was when he lived there. It’s quite spooky to wander around his apartment and see his personal artefacts.

I studied Strindberg at college and found him an interesting if somewhat confusing writer. This museum opened up his life and world to me. It was set out in themed exhibits looking at various aspects of his life, such as his religious views and how they developed, his portrayal and views on women, his pacifism etc. This was a really good way of getting to grips with this multifaceted man.

He’s held in very high esteem in his native Sweden and this museum enabled me to see why.

Me with Strindberg statue outside the Swedish National Theatre

Me with Strindberg statue outside the Swedish National Theatre

The other “theatrical” museum I had to visit was Abba The Museum. It was a great chance to see their memorabilia and find out a bit more about the group via the guided tour you listen to recorded by Abba themselves. I was slightly surprised that there is only a passing mention to their musical, Mama Mia! A tiny display of the wedding dress from the show and as you leave the museum you leave via the bridge akin to the end of the musical. For a musical that has been so successful I was surprised they gave it so little promotion here.

Alas they wouldn't let me try these on.

Alas they wouldn’t let me try these on.

That's ALOT of records!!

That’s ALOT of records!!

It’s a wonderful city but theatrically the highlight for me was the Kungliga Operan – but I’ll save that for a future post!