The subject of the article is Norwegian contemporary opera after 1970. Despite an unprecedented high number of new music dramatic works, we lack both a public discussion and a historical presentation of contemporary opera in Norway. This article divides national contemporary operas into three categories, depending on their institutional relation. However, the main aim of the article is to reveal some of the artistic principles and differing concepts of opera as genre that have been dominating the contemporary scene in Norway. The discussion in the present article is thus based on studies of some representative works. In particular is the relation between dramatic text and musical realisation given attention. One of the observations is that in many cases, the operatic works have been based on unsuitable texts – dramaturgically speaking – or on an obsolete generic understanding of opera. Another observation is that international operatic tendencies and new generic conceptions have had little influence on Norwegian contemporary opera.

Keywords: Norwegian contemporary opera, opera as genre, Literaturopera, Antonio Bibalo, Olav Anton Thommessen, opera and institutions