Creating one of the world’s greatest performance venues

Copenhagen Opera House

Denmark’s national opera house is versatile and contemporary, and has become a performing arts landmark


Denmark aimed to create a new national opera house, capable of housing a diverse range of home-produced opera and ballet as well as touring shows.


Collaborating with architects Henning Larsens Tegnestue, building engineers and the Royal Danish Theatre, Theatreplan has worked on all elements of new complex, introducing theatrical innovations across the main opera house and the studio theatre. Stage engineering is extensive but simple. Six stages meet the performance and rehearsal requirements of the opera house’s diverse repertoire. There is a main stage, two side stages, a rear stage, a fit-up stage area and a further stage space.

A wagon system transfers sets between stages, while a purpose-built ballet floor under the rear stage can be raised to stage level quickly so that the switch from opera to ballet can be made quickly and effortlessly. This versatile stage floor system also incorporates a 15m revolve which is built within a full-size stage wagon. For optimal contact between stage and audience, the auditorium is horseshoe-shaped and across three tiers. A flexible orchestra pit can be used on several levels, with its own elevator transferring instruments between it and the orchestra’s rehearsal hall four floors below.

Chamber opera, recitals, ballet, contemporary dance and new writing takes place in a flexible ‘black box’ studio space – Takkelloftet. This studio has 200 retractable seats and 16 mobile audience towers on high-pressure air bearings, providing innumerable performance configurations. A technical gallery with a tensioned wire grid above enables acoustics to be changed for the needs of the scheduled performance.


On time and on budget, Operaen, as it is known, has been commended as being “absolutely stunning” and of the highest quality throughout. It has taken its place among the great performing arts buildings in the world.


IABSE Outstanding Structure Award
United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) – Merit Award for Theatre Architecture
The Association of the Danish Flooring Industry – Floor Award (Gulvprisen)
Byggeri (Building Magazine) – Selected Buildings


“It is truly a magnificent performing arts building and its intricate but highly functional design is a great testament to your expertise. They are so lucky to have such well-planned and generous technical and plant spaces and the stages obviously get a good workout during their opera seasons.”
Richard Stuart, Technical Director, Sydney Opera House

  • Seating capacity: 1650
  • Project venue type: Opera House 
  • Project build type: New build 
  • Location: Denmark 
  • Completion date: 2004 
  • Project value: £240 million
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