Opéra Bastille in Paris
L'Opéra Bastille (Bastille Opera) is a modern opera house in Paris, France. It is the home base of the Opéra national de Paris and was designed to replace the Palais Garnier, which is nowadays mainly used for ballet performances.
Background and construction
In 1968, the idea for a new opera house in Paris first came from the composer Pierre Boulez, Maurice Béjart, along with Jean Vilar, a believer in the need for popular theatre. Their report inspired François Mitterrand, the French president, to sponsor a competition to build a new house. He wanted it to become a "modern and popular" place in order to share classical music with the masses.
Therefore, he created the Opera Bastille Public Establishment (l'Établissement PuA) competition to select an architect to build this new opera house. 756 entries were received, and, in November 1983, the competition was won by, at the time, an unknown architect, Carlos Ott, a Uruguayan who lives in Canada.
Located at the Place de la Bastille, in the 12th arrondissement, the house was designed with 2,723 seats, every one of which has an unrestricted view of the stage. The theatre, was "surmounted by the opaque cube of the stage building and wrapped in gridded walls of glass...... the Opera stands sociably open to the world outside, whereas the foyers, with their broad overview of the city, have the slick, impersonal look of an airport lounge". Beauvert also describes the theatre's backstage facilities as being extremely modern, allowing for nine times the volume of the stage and the ability to roll entire sets off and on intact. However, compared to other world-class opera houses, the acoustics have been described as disappointing at best.
Construction began in 1984 with the demolition of the Gare de la Bastille, which was opened in 1859 and closed on December 14, 1969, and where art expositions were held thereafter until its demolition.
The building was inaugurated on July 13, 1989, on the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, with a gala concert conducted by Georges Prêtre and featuring singers such as Teresa Berganza and Plácido Domingo. However, it did not see its first opera performance until March 17, 1990, with Berlioz' Les Troyens, directed by Pier Luigi Pizzi.
- Beauvert, Thierry, Opera Houses of the World, New York: The Vendome Press, 1995.