Carmen, The Magic Flute, La Traviata, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and La Bayadère. These are enchanting shows that fire the imagination and thrill the soul. Welcome to Paris’s operas!
Two Distinct Locations
The battle rages between fans of the Palais Garnier and enthusiasts of the Opéra Bastille. The Palais Garnier is a historical monument, a vestige of the Napoleonic era, and an architectural masterpiece that you visit along with the Louvre. This magnificent building, with its passageways, large foyers, balconies, and loggia, is a truly magical place, where every step takes you into another world. Once you’ve found your seat, look up and admire the (contentious) ceiling painted by Chagall: a work of art within a work of art. The Opéra Bastille, meanwhile, is a massive building, measuring 155,000 square meters, whose large auditorium can hold around 2,700 people. It was designed by Carlos Ott, a Uruguayan architect, who created a modern, plain, and elegant theater built entirely in transparent glass. The building is a creamy white color with black and wooden details, and it opened on in July 1989 to mark the bicentennial of the storming of the Bastille.
Two Distinct Atmospheres
As you enter the Palais Garnier, you fall instantly under its spell. Everyone is dressed to the nines, and women laugh uproariously in the main foyer while men stride around the balconies with their cigars in hand. You don’t have to wait long to see two lovers embrace. Regardless of the time of year, the atmosphere is very festive. At the Bastille, however, things are much calmer. Only the bell announcing the start of the performance interrupts the silence. You feel as if you’re in a church or a museum. Such is the respect shown for the art and the performance. The spectators move around quietly, as not to disturb the sanctity of the arena. At the intermission, however, the atmospheres are much more similar. Young girls twirl around, dreaming of becoming ballet protégés, as the members of the audience discuss their impressions of the first half of the show, waiting eagerly for the second half to begin.
The acoustics of the Bastille’s auditorium have been very carefully designed. Wherever you are seated, you will hear all the music and singing perfectly, which explains why most of the operas are staged here. As you browse through the two programs, you will see that classic operas such as Puccini’s La Bohème and Mozart’s Don Giovanni share the bill with less well-known works like Gluck’s Alceste or Chausson’s Le Roi Arthus. The aim is to achieve a good balance between affordable, popular operas and more specialist works. As for the ballet, the arrival of Benjamin Millepied as Director of Dance at the Opéra National de Paris has given a new lease of life to this hive of activity. Here again, the balance between classical and modern ballet is notable in both venues. Although Nureyev and his dancers in tutus are still the benchmark in choreography, more and more modern ballets are being programmed.
All you have to do now is decide. Will it be opera or ballet? Will it be the Palais Garnier or Opéra Bastille? Whichever you choose, you will not be disappointed.