A new opera house of international repute was opened in a spectacular position on the Amstel in Amsterdam in 1986: Het Muziektheater. De Nederlandse Opera gained a house that fitted perfectly with its ambitions to become one of the best international houses of Europe. To realise these ambitions, DNO’s great desire was to have one orchestra that would accompany the majority of its productions. This particular situation was made possible by its collaboration with the Stichting Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest, itself formed in 1985 from a fusion of three orchestras from Utrecht and Amsterdam. The NedPhO took up residency in Amsterdam: its members included first-class musicians with much experience and it gloried in the unusual blend of a full symphony orchestra allied with a chamber orchestra. This provided the fitting orchestral forces for whatever opera was being presented, from intimate chamber piece to large-scale Wagner cycle.
Hartmut Haenchen was chief conductor of both De Nederlandse Opera and the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra from 1986 to 1999. Both organisations then continued with separate chief conductors for another 10 years. Marc Albrecht’s appointment as chief conductor of both organisations from 2011 signals a return to the original state of affairs.
The Netherlands Chamber Orchestra has enjoyed great successes with contemporary operas for DNO as well as its many successful performances of works by Mozart and Rossini. One such work was the world premiere of Alexander Knaifel’s Alice in September 2001; others were the Chinese-American composer Tan Dun’s operas Tea and Marco Polo, both conducted by the composer. The DVD release of Marco Polo was nominated for an Emmy award in 2010.
As of 2014 De Nederlandse Opera has changed its name to De Nationale Opera. Het Muziekgebouw is since then called Nationale Opera & Ballet.
James Sohre writes in Opera Today that ‘The Netherlands Opera has an enviable history of compelling theatre; highly interesting, vibrant, and polished. ‘Modern’ art, yes, but not ‘Art’ without regard to its audience. Add to that the consistently high musical values here and . . .doink! . . . this seems to be my favourite place to attend opera, beyond the shadow of a doubt'
Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (1999, revived in 2005): ‘The real hero is not Siegfried the dragon slayer, but conductor Hartmut Haenchen, conjuror in sound of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra. In its richness of timbre this is exceptionally flexible and subtle Wagner’. (Het Parool)
John Adam’s Doctor Atomic (2007): ‘ after every perfect note from the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and from soloists Gerald Finley, Jessica Rivera and Ellen Rabiner, you are curious as to what Adams will conjure out of his tall composer’s hat’. (Algemeen Dagblad)
Janáček’s Káta Kabanová (2008): ‘Yakov Kreizberg and his excellent Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra give an impressive shape to the work by making a sea of emotions audible between the darkness of the real world and Katya’s ethereal visions’. (Trouw).
Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten (2008): ‘Here the music itself assumes the leading role, one which is fully claimed by the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Marc Albrecht’. (Trouw)
Halévy’s La Juive (2009): ‘The Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra under the impassioned Carlo Rizzi lets us hear in magnificent fashion how influential Halévy’s music was’. (Trouw)