The National Theatre

Also known asThe National Theatre of Norway/Nationaltheatret
Organisation typeNational institution
Main focusTheatre
Established1 Sep. 1899

About The National Theatre

The National Theatre opened in 1899. It is one of Norway's three national theatre institutions. The first executive director of The National Theatre was Bjørn Bjørnson, who was an actor, a director and son of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.

Currently the theatre is led by Hanne Tømta.

The Torshov Theatre is managed by The National Theatre.

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  • Kristian Seltun - Theatre director (involved from 1 Jan. 2021)
  • Hanne Tømta - Theatre director (involved from 1 Jan. 2009 to 31 Dec. 2020)
  • Eirik Stubø - Theatre director (involved from 1 Aug. 2000 to 31 Dec. 2008)
  • Ellen Horn - Theatre director (involved from 1992 to 2000)
  • Stein Winge - Theatre director (involved from 1990 to 1992)

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More about The National Theatre

The National Theatre is located in the plaza of Studenterlunden, limited by the street of Karl Johans gate to the North, the plaza Dybwads plass with the tube station Nationaltheatret T-banestasjon and the railway station Nationaltheatret jernbanestasjon to the West, the street of Stortingsgata to the south and the street of Universitetsgata to the east.

Prior to the building of The National Theatre, the location was discussed throughout decades. The theatre supporters wanted the theatre built at its current location, but had to give up the idea after hard resistance from the University of Oslo, located across Karl Johan. But the following years Norwegian writers such as Ibsen and Bjørnson achieved international prestige shadowing the university, and when a new application for a theatre in Studenterlunden was promoted in 1888, personally supported by Ibsen and Bjørnson, the case was swiftly processed. The university protested in vain, but won acceptance for the location of the entrance of The National Theatre; it should not oppose the entrance of the university. Nor was the roof allowed to be built much higher than the roof of the university.

The building was designed by architect Henrik Bull, who won an architecture competition for the assignment in 1891. The original main hall (Hovedscenen, meaning The Main Stage), is decorated in the style of Neo-Rococo. In addition there are three other venues in the building; Amfiscenen, Malersalen and Bakscenen (literally: The Amphi Stage, The Painters' Hall and The Backstage). The theatre opened September 1 1899.

The very first production performed was a compiled Holberg program (September 1 1899), followed by Ibsen's An Enemy of the People September 2 and Bjørnson's Sigurd the Crusader September 3. All the three mentioned were labelled as opening performances. The same three playwrights' names are engraved in the facade of the theatre building, and statues of Ibsen and Bjørnson stand outside of it.

The building has been protected from 1983.

The autumn of 1980 the main stage area was destroyed by fire, and for a while productions were performed in the rehearsal rooms, in the foyer and in a circus tent outside of the building. The main stage was reopened in 1985, with Peer Gynt as the opening performance.

Artistic directors:

  • 1899–1907: Bjørn Bjørnson
  • 1908–1911: Vilhelm Krag
  • 1911–1923: Halfdan Christensen
  • 1923–1927: Bjørn Bjørnson
  • 1928–1930: Einar Skavlan
  • 1930–1933: Halfdan Christensen
  • 1933–1934: Anton Rønneberg (constituted)
  • 1934–1935: Johe. Wiers-Jensen
  • 1935–1941: Axel Otto Normann
  • 1941–1945: Gustav Berg-Jæger
  • 1945–1946: Axel Otto Normann
  • 1946–1960: Knut Hergel
  • 1960–1961: Carl Fredrik Engelstad
  • 1962–1967: Erik Kristen-Johanssen
  • 1967–1978: Arild Brinchmann
  • 1978–1986: Toralv Maurstad
  • 1986–1988: Kjetil Bang-Hansen
  • 1988–1990: Ellen Horn, Ole-Jørgen Nilsen and Sverre Rødahl
  • 1990–1992: Stein Winge
  • 1992–2000: Ellen Horn
  • 2000–2008: Eirik Stubø
  • From 2009: Hanne Tømta


The encyclopaedia Store Norske Leksikon, 27.09.2011,

Nowegian Wikipedia,, 24.11.2010,

The National Theatre, 27.09.2011,