Fossil-Filled Swedish Quarry Goes from Rock to Rock

Stefan Lovgren in Dalhalla, Sweden
for National Geographic News
October 14, 2003

When Kalle Moraeus first played at Dalhalla, the weather gods didn't cooperate. "It was absolute chaos," said the veteran folk artist, famous in his native Sweden. "It was raining so hard the show had to be stopped. Some of our equipment was floating around on stage."

Since that inauspicious beginning, Dalhalla—an old limestone quarry that's been turned into a 4,000-seat amphitheater—has become the premier open-air stage in Scandinavia, celebrated for its magnificent acoustics.

Moraeus has returned for a dozen concerts.

"There's no place like it," said Moraeus, standing on the stage as he was rehearsing recently for Dalhalla's tenth anniversary show. "It's just a fantastic place for an artist to play."

A Natural Amphitheater

Limestone has been mined for centuries in Sweden. Excavations in Dalhalla began in the 1940s, and mining continued here until 1991.

Soon after that, Margareta Dellefors, a renowned opera singer, was traveling around Sweden in search for a location on which to build an opera stage. A friend suggested that she visit a quarry set deep in the woods outside Rättvik in the Dalarna region of central Sweden.

As soon as she arrived at the quarry, Dellefors knew she had found her stage. The giant crater opening up before her—400 meters (440 yards) long, 175 meters (190 yards) wide and 60 meters (66 yards) deep—was a natural amphitheater. She climbed down to the water that had collected at the bottom of the pit, and began to sing from Tosca, the opera.

Work soon began on building the stage, and in 1994 Dalhalla held its first concert. The cost of the project ended up being a relatively modest one million dollars (U.S.).

The name, "Dalhalla," is a reference to Valhalla, the "Heaven of Heroes" in Nordic mythology. The Dalhalla founders saw the arena as the perfect site for performing the mythology-laden operas of Richard Wagner.

The first impression of Dalhalla is awe-inspiring. Visitors are led down a path through the surrounding forest, which dramatically opens up to reveal the majestic quarry. They then walk down a gravel path into the giant pit. The stage is set in front of a shimmering lake of green water.

"There's no place where you'll find music and nature intertwined like this," said Håkan Ivarsson, the managing director of Dalhalla.

Continued on Next Page >>


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