4 reasons every expat should visit the Dutch National Opera & Ballet

4 reasons every expat should visit the Dutch National Opera & Ballet


When it comes to culture and the arts, those residing in the Netherlands are blessed with a multitude of options. Within this scene, the Dutch National Opera & Ballet shines as a perennial stand-out.

Yet, while they continue to develop in-house masterpieces and revamp classics, many expats and international residents in the Netherlands have yet to attend a performance.

Of the almost endless reasons to see a production at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet, here are four that should make it an absolute must for every expat living in the Netherlands.

1. Experience two rich artistic traditions

The story of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet is one of two art forms united by a single creative ethos that puts a premium on dramatic creativity and first-rate quality.

Dutch National Opera

Founded in 1946, the Dutch National Opera would become the breeding ground for influential artistic and general directors whose ranks have included Maurice Huisman (1964), Hans De Roo (1971), Truze Lodder (1987) and Pierre Audi (1988). 

By staging performances that incorporated elements of the visual arts, both classic and inventive storylines and prominent guest soloists and companies, these visionaries added something unique to each production.

Exploring an artistic freedom seldom seen in the world of opera, the Dutch National Opera is now internationally admired for their original works, focus on talent development and unconventional performance styles.

Dutch National Ballet

Under the guidance of talents like Sonia Gaskell, Rudi van Dantzig, Wayne Eagling and Hans van Manen, the Dutch National Ballet rose to international prominence in the 1970s and 80s for independently staging both unique ballets and engaging reworks.

Today, they continue to build this tradition of producing pieces that add a freshness so rare in contemporary ballet that they attract dancers from all around the world.

In 2013, the Dutch National Opera and Dutch National Ballet merged into a single entity under the name Dutch National Opera & Ballet. In accordance, the Stopera/Het Muziektheater building where they perform was also renamed to the Dutch National Opera & Ballet.

2. Discover smart, trendsetting work

Many major opera and ballet companies rely on performing traditional works (think Verdi’s La Traviata, Puccini’s La Bohéme, or Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake) to fill seats throughout the season.

Important as it is to pay homage to the classics, the Dutch National Opera & Ballet strives to offer audiences something a bit more special.

Capitalising on their pool of in-house talent and putting faith in their artistic staff, the Dutch National Opera & Ballet manages to produce some of the most lauded original productions in addition to their award-winning contemporary variations of masterpieces.

The 2014-2015 season alone will see Swan Lake in the style of Rudi van Dantzig, Macbeth under the guidance of German theatre ace Andrea Breth and Christopher Wheeldon’s revered update of Cinderella.

Costume at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet dutch national ballet costume

Gurrelieder, Photo: Ruth Walz dutch national opera and ballet

stopera seating

Mixed in are engaging guest productions and collaborations that include the UK choreographic showcase Cool Britannia, future classic La Dame aux Camélias by John Neumeier, a staging of Benvenuto Cellini featuring Terry Gilliam's (of Monty Python fame) directing debut and an inventive urban take on Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

It’s not easy to change a classic, but the Dutch National Opera & Ballet takes risks that few others dare and the payoff comes in the form of unique, trailblazing productions.

3. Marvel at ingenious sets & costumes

Unlike their counterparts, both the Dutch National Opera & Ballet take care of all costumes, make-up, stage building and set design in-house.

Spread over two costume departments, a wig department and a dye workshop, the outfits and sets are designed from start to finish in the Stopera complex and in a warehouse in Amsterdam Southeast.

Add to this a stage that is 21 meters wide and it is certainly one of the best places to see an opera or ballet. With multiple acts and companies, fluidity is important and the stage can be built up or taken down within hours!

Featuring guest stage directors and designers that have included big names like Laurent Pelly and Viktor&Rolf, the Dutch National Opera & Ballet leads the way in showing the importance of artistic production in all facets.

4. Both expat and budget friendly!

Just looking at the roster of the Dutch National Ballet shows the extent of the organisation’s multicultural character. With over 27 different nationalities represented, they are especially attentive to the needs of internationals.

This diverse composition also means they make the extra effort to include non-Dutch speakers in their programmes. From providing information about the performances in English to offering surtitles for all of the operas, performances are meant to be enjoyed by a varied public.

It’s surprising how often the opera and ballet are (incorrectly) associated with high prices. What’s great about the Dutch National Opera & Ballet is that they cater to a range of audiences and budgets.

From those who are curious to diehard fans, prices for shows generally start at just 15 euros. However, visitors can also indulge in the galas, special performances and elegant evenings that experienced opera or ballet goers have come to expect.

Take the time and enjoy a magnificent evening on the Amstel with the newest in contemporary dance, a classical opera or a traditional favourite proudly presented by the Dutch National Opera & Ballet!


Benjamin Garstka


Benjamin Garstka

Raised in Massachusetts. University years in New York City. Graduate school in Utrecht. Amsterdammer by choice. Cultuurliefhebber. Urbanist. Affinity for sarcasm, craft beers, art criticism, stand-up comedy and the Dutch...

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