The International Writers
OPERA IN A QUARRY.
300 kms northwest of Stockholm is the beautiful region of Dalarna,
spread out all around Lake Siljan, The neat timber cottages built
in the old Dalecarlian style, the lawns in verdant green, meadows
covered with wild flowers, reaching almost down to the waters
edge, were so refreshing. We motored down to Rattvik, where we
were promised a very unusual treat.
An old limestone quarry had been abandoned in 1990 due to heavy flooding
from underground springs. The quarrying had left what looked like a natural
amphitheatre of incredible dimensions, 400 x 175 x 65 metres. In its depths
was a green lake. The colour was due to calcium carbonate reflecting the
It might have remained abandoned but for a stroke of luck.
At Whitsun in 1991, Margarita Dellefors an operatic singer was taking
a stroll in that area when she chanced upon this quarry. The lady stood
on the brink of the quarry and belted out a song. She found that the acoustics
were superb. A vision was born. She thought this would be an ideal place
for staging summer festivals. It helped that she was working for the Ministry
of Culture in Stockholm.
The amphitheatre was opened in 1997, at a cost of 40 million kroner, half
the cost of a regular theatre.
The stage is about 600 square metres, and is surrounded on three sides
by a green moat. The conductor arrives by boat, to the pit
of the stage where the musicians are seated. There are no loud speakers
because the acoustics are excellent.(65 decibels of sound.) When one person
sings or when one instrument plays, the sound effects are best.
At the back of the stage is a black board on which the words of the opera
are flashed in Swedish, as most operas are in Italian. The galleries are
plain slatted wooden chairs that can seat 4042 people in an area of 227
The visual effects are stunning. The rock walls are flooded with lights
of many muted colours, and the green lake surrounding the stage adds to
On that first evening of the show in 1997, an abridged version of Wagners
Rigoletto was performed by artists of international calibre.
It must have been a glorious night to remember. Today artists from all
over the world vie with each other for a chance to perform on this largest
open air theatre in the world. At the Millennial New Year performance,
the seats were packed to capacity, in spite of the biting cold. When Pavorotti
sang, it was 10 degrees, with a steady drizzle to make things worse.
He wondered aloud whether they had all gone mad to brave such weather.
Dalhalla is a combination of two words Dal and Halla. Dal stands for the
town Dalarna, and Halla is from Wagners Valhalla. This environment
friendly theatre gets its electricity and water from a spring 175 metres
below the lowest level of the mine. Most of the employees come from the
five surrounding villages, each with a population of about 250.
After bringing us up to date on the history of this unique theatre, our
guide gave us a demonstration of the acoustics, by singing snatches from
the Wagnerian opera. It was simply great.
The Summer Festival season lasts from 6th June to 1st September.
About 26 concerts are held during the season, which are mostly Opera.
However, other types of music like Jazz, Ballet or Gospel music are also
performed here. But Rock Concerts are strictly not allowed, as security
Tickets for concerts are expensive ranging from 150 to 430 kroner, but
guided tours during the day are free.
From central Dalarna, it takes three hours by road to reach this place.
© Eva Bell April 2007
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