Discovering the Paris Opera Scene

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There are three opera houses in Paris, namely, Opéra Comique, Opéra Garnier and Opéra Bastille.

Of differing eras and styles, they all play an important role in the Parisian cultural scene.  Let’s get to know them better…

Opéra Comique

Founded in 1714 under the reign of Louis XIV, Opéra Comique is the oldest of the three opera houses in Paris. In contrast with the other form of opera, which is sung throughout, the role of this opera house was to stage pantomimes and parodies of opera through song interspersed with spoken drama, giving rise to its own genre of performance and eponymous name, Opéra Comique. Listed on the register of national theaters in 2005, the venue now stages both operatic performances and plays and its repertoire encompasses all genres, extending from Baroque to contemporary music. Similar in architectural style to the Opéra Garnier, it has the advantage of being smaller in size and, thus, more artist-friendly. It is currently undergoing a facelift in its tricentennial year and will reopen to the public at the end of next year.

Good to know: note that the seating in the auditorium is arranged in a horseshoe layout, so your view may not be entirely facing the stage but slightly turned towards the rest of the auditorium – for a simple, historic reason; in the past, opera-going was not solely to watch a performance; people went there to observe others and to be seen.

1 Place Boieldieu, Paris 2
Metro: Richelieu-Drouot
For virtual visit click here

Opéra Garnier

Opéra Garnier was commissioned by Napoléon III, who wanted an opera house to dazzle the rest of Europe and whose performances would be on the agenda of the Parisian aristocracy, at a time when the capital was considered the epicenter of sophistication and style. To everyone’s astonishment, in 1860 the honor of constructing the opera house was awarded to the winning bid by the young, 35-year-old, up and coming architect, Charles Garnier. Visitors to the opera house are immediately awed by the impressive Versailles Hall of Mirrors and grandiose staircase that welcomes them to the foyer. Nothing has been spared to bring you the sense of euphoria and luxury: marble, gold, red velvet…Since 2011, visitors have also been able to dine at its in-house restaurant designed by the architect, Odile Decq.

Anecdotally, the restoration of its ceiling, initiated by Malraux and entrusted to the painter, Marc Chagall, was extremely controversial. Three times as many people attended its inauguration in 1964, everyone wanting to form their own opinion on the restoration work.

Palais Garnier
Place Jacques Rouché, Paris 9
Metro: Opéra
7 to 11 euros. Open everyday from 10 a.m to 4.30 p.m.  Informations: 0 892 89 90 90
Restaurant L’Opéra
Lunch and dinner, brunch on Sundays
Reservations : +33.(0)

Opéra Bastille

Designed by the architect, Carlos Ott, this modern opera house was inaugurated for the bicentenary of the French Revolution of 1789. Erected on the site of a disused train station, it is the largest opera house in the world today, with 2745 seats, which makes it even bigger than the Sidney Opera House. The building has a characteristic glass façade and uses identical materials for both the interiors and the exteriors. Visitors can take a guided tour behind the scenes of the opera house and discover its amazing stage facilities (from 1 September to 16 July).

What is 400 square meters at Opéra Bastille? That is the size of the stage elevator that can bring an entire scenery up from below stage level, thus allowing for a complete change of scenery in one fell swoop.

Place de la Bastille, Paris 11
Metro: Bastille
To have the dates and times of the next visits:
Look at the online calendar or by phone +33.(0)