Volgspotters aan het werk tijdens Sleeping Beauty

The Organisation

Over 600 staff members at Dutch National Opera & Ballet work on creating top-quality performances at an international level, in the fields of opera, ballet and related musical and dramatic arts. Our organisation wants people to connect with, be moved by and be involved with the rich cultural life of the Netherlands. Craftsmanship, creativity, daring and commitment are qualities our staff members share. 

Bezoekers in de Grote Zaal

Mission & Vision

We want to enrich the lives of as many people as possible with the wonder, beauty and meaning of opera and ballet. We do it by bringing song, dance, music, acting, language, technique and design together in the “live” interpretation of human emotions. In doing so, we offer our audiences an emotional, intellectual and sensory experience which transcends everyday life and can touch both the hearts and minds of people.

Missie & Visie

Bij het realiseren van onze missie werken we aan de hand van de volgende kernwaarden, die bepalen hoe we te werk gaan:

  • Gedreven en toegewijd: we gaan ver in ons streven naar excellentie, waarbij de definiëring van ‘kwaliteit’ geen vaststaand gegeven is maar juist onderdeel van ons artistieke proces
  • Meerstemmig en nieuwsgierig: we werken met verhalen, makers, professionals en artiesten uit alle kunstvormen, culturen en tradities, we dagen onszelf uit, houden van experiment, en werken graag met jong talent.
  • Open en genereus: we verwelkomen zoveel mogelijk mensen zo gastvrij mogelijk, we wisselen nationaal en internationaal onze kennis en kunde uit met anderen en we werken op basis van gelijkwaardigheid samen.
  • Doelmatig en duurzaam: we gaan verantwoordelijk om met mensen en middelen.
I vespri siciliani (1894)


Dutch National Opera & Ballet is a relatively young theater with a long history. As early as 1915, the construction of a new city hall and opera house was on the agenda of the Amsterdam City Council. At that time, there was a clear focus on an opera house; ballet was still a relatively unknown and thus undervalued art form.


Ideas for the site of the new city hall and opera house were continually changing, and the idea that both buildings could form a single complex only emerged much later. Sites considered for the new city hall were initially the Dam, followed by the Frederiksplein and finally the Waterlooplein.

In 1955, the city council commissioned the firm of architects Berghoef and Vegter to draft a design for a city hall on the Waterlooplein. The draft was approved, but in 1964 the council ended the association with the architects, as the final design was nothing like the original plans they had been shown. In 1967, a competition was held for a new design, with the Viennese architect Wilhelm Holzbauer emerging as the winner. Amsterdam's financial problems, however, meant that the plans for the new city hall were put on hold for several years.

Opening Muziektheater in aanwezigheid van Burgemeester Ed van Thijn, Koningin Beatrix en Prins Clau
Opening of the Muziektheater in the presence of Mayor Ed van Thijn, Queen Beatrix, and Prince Claus | Photo: Rob Croes, National Archives of the Netherlands / Anefo

The plans for the site of the opera house also made a tour around the city: the Museumplein, Frederiksplein, Waterlooplein, Ferdinand Bolstraat and finally once again the Waterlooplein. For a while there was even talk of a mobile opera house.

Engineer Bijvoet (associated with Holt architects from 1948) was commissioned in 1956 to design an opera house for the Frederiksplein. In 1961, he had to 'move' the design to the Ferdinand Bolstraat. Despite the city council’s approval of the plans in 1967, progress was so slow that Wim Kan, the renowned cabaret performer, remarked in 1971: "Come on lads, we've got to do something about that new opera house in Amsterdam: the model of it is about to collapse". Exponents and opponents shouted each other down, the action group 'Opera on the Ferdinand Bolstraat? 'Sol-di-mi-terop' (an organisation campaigning strongly against the opera house on that site) was formed, and the initiative committee 'Muziektheater NU' (Music Theatre NOW) organised a special evening in the Carré Theatre to give the project a boost. All these activities, however, had little effect.

Both projects had reached an impasse at the end of the 1970s, until in 1979 the architect Holzbauer proposed that the city hall and opera house could be combined in one complex. The Council took up this idea and put it to the government of the day. The response was positive and so it was decided to pursue the idea further. It had already been agreed that the Dutch National Ballet would also be one of the resident companies of the new theatre, alongside De Nederlandse Opera.

Het Muziektheater vanaf de Amstel
Het Muziektheater vanaf de Amstel | Foto: Rob Croes, Nationaal Archief / Anefo

Engineer Bijvoet died at the end of 1979 and was succeeded by the architect Cees Dam. The 'Club van 100' was set up, and through its full-page advertisements this committee urged politicians to keep the momentum going for the combined City Hall and The Amsterdam Music Theatre. The City Council approved the design in 1980, and this was soon followed by approval from the Provincial Executive for Noord-Holland and the Crown in 1981.

Riots broke out as the first piles were driven into the ground. The protest was given the name: 'Van Stopera naar Slopera' (roughly meaning 'From building to demolition'). Construction work was postponed for a month before a definitive start could be made. The Amsterdam Music Theatre was officially opened on 23 September 1986 and the Amsterdam city council moved into its new city hall in September 1988. The famous Waterlooplein flea market, which had been temporarily moved to the Rapenburgerstraat, returned to the square next to the new city hall in the same year.

Read more about the history of Dutch National Opera

Read more about the history of Dutch National Ballet

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