For 120 years, the country’s main stage has provided an arena for Norwegian dramatic artists, classical and innovative theatrical productions, grand celebrations, and bitter conflicts.
When the National Theatre opened on September the 1st 1899, it assumed the role of Norway’s national theatre previously held by the Christiania Theatre. The same year, the Christiania Theatre was demolished, making room for the Bank of Norway (Norges Bank).
Powerful forces wanted to situate the new theatre in the Studenterlunden park. The university objected, finding it inappropriate for a theatre to occupy the space between the palace, the university, and Parliament. It was only in 1888, after Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson both had won great international acclaim, that the permission to build the new National Theatre in Studenterlunden was granted – on the condition that the roof could not be higher than the university, and the entrance could not point towards it.
Henrik Bull won the architects’ contest
The National Theatre building is designed by Henrik Bull, who won the architects’ design contest in 1891.
Bjørnson vs. Ibsen
Bjørn Bjørnson was the first Artistic Director at the National Theatre.
The artistic mind of Vilhelm Krag
When Bjørn Bjørnson stepped down from his position of Artistic Director, there was a broad consensus that the next Artistic Director should be a man of letters.
Halfdan Christensen and the golden age
In 1911 Halfdan Christensen assumed the role of Artistic Director, which marked the beginning of what is called the National Theatre’s golden age.
Bjørnson and "The Journey to the Christmas Star"
When Halfdan Christensen quit, there was only one applicant for the position of Artistic Director, and he was out of the question.
Einar Skavlan and the new generation
Einar Skavlan took over as Artistic Director in 1928. He had been Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper Dagbladet for many years, and so was used to run a large, modern business.
Halfdan Christensen and blasphemy
Halfdan Christensen had turned 56 when he became Artistic Director for the second time in 1930.
Anton Rønneberg and Johe. Wiers-Jenssen
Finding a successor was not easy. There were several applicants, but none that met the board’s requirements. Anton Rønneberg, a dramaturge at the theatre, was asked to step in.
Axel Otto Normann and the invasion
In 1935 Axel Otto Normann became the new Artistic Director. He was originally a journalist and theatre critic.
Gustav Berg-Jæger and the occupation
During the period of Nazi rule, the Nazi Gustav Berg-Jæger was instated as Artistic Director.
Knut Hergel and the deficit
Knut Hergel was hired as a new Artistic Director in 1946 and stayed in his position until 1960.
Carl Fredrik Engelstad and backstage drama
In 1960 Carl Engelstad, theatre critic and European history scholar, was hired as Artistic Director.
State theatre under Erik Kristen-Johanssen
Erik Kristen-Johanssen took over the Director’s seat in 1961. He was a businessman and had been the National Theatre’s Financial Director since 1948.
Arild Brinchmann and refurbishment
Arild Brinchmann became Artistic Director in 1967. He had been the first Director of NRK’s Televised Theatre (Fjernsynsteatret) from 1959 to 1967.
Toralv Maurstad and the great fire
When Brinchmann stepped down as Artistic Director in 1978, Toralv Maurstad took over. He had already been Artistic Director at Oslo Nye Teater (Oslo New Theatre) for ten years at this point.
Kjetil Bang-Hansen, Stein Winge, and “the Troika”
When Maurstad left the Director’s seat in 1986, Kjetil Bang-Hansen took over.
Ellen Horn and the dream of expansion
Winge stayed on until 1992, when Ellen Horn took over – this time by herself. This was the first time a woman was the sole Artistic Director.
Eirik Stubø had been the Artistic Director at the Rogaland Theatre when he was hired as the National Theatre’s new Artistic Director.
Hanne Tømta took over as Artistic Director at the National Theatre in 2009. Under Tømta’s leadership, the theatre has set several records.