Parisian entertainment houses: A guide to Opéra
The culturally rich city of Paris is brought to life through its historical architecture, music, performance and cuisine. Millennium Hotel Paris Opéra, historic in itself as it was built in 1927 and uniquely combines Belle Epoque, Beaux Arts and Art Deco styles, is walking distance from several iconic opera houses and legendary theatres, proving to be the perfect Parisian accommodation for lovers of the arts. While in the City of Lights, take a self-guided walking tour through the neighbourhood around Millennium Hotel Paris Opéra to discover – and perhaps fall in love with – the world of French opera.
The opulent Palais Garnier on Rue Scribe is one of the most famous opera houses in the world and its splendour lures tourists, making it a mandatory stop for many visitors to the city. The building, which was completed in 1875 after 14 years of construction, was designed by French architect Charles Garnier, who also designed the Monte Carlo Casino Theatre. Garnier’s style was just as theatrical as the productions on stage, with ceiling frescos by Marc Chagall and Clairin, an eight-ton bronze and crystal chandelier, and marble, gold and velvet detailing throughout. During the turn of the century, the act of going to the opera was almost a performance in itself, with makeup and elaborate costumes not only reserved for performers but embraced by the audience as well. French impressionist painter Edgar Degas was a common face at the sidelines of the theatre, painting the less glamourous scenes behind the velvet curtains. Today, the productions at Palais Garnier are mainly staged by the prestigious Paris Opera or Opera National de Paris, France’s premier opera company.
Opéra Comique façade. Credit: jcamiloberna / Getty Images
1 Place Boieldieu is the home of Opéra Comique, a Parisian company founded in 1714, dedicated to the genre of opéra comique. Unlike its name suggests, opéra comique does not cater to comedy, but instead performances include a mixture of sung and spoken lines, making it very different to traditional opera where all lines are sung. Much of the recent work by the company has been in both the preservation and promotion of opéra comique through a series of workshops. It operates an academy that trains performers in the opéra comique style, as well as costume workshops that aim to reconnect costume makers to the art of craftsmanship, an initiative that has been supported by French fashion designer Christian Lacroix. The theatre is currently undergoing extensive renovations until the end of 2016, but shows such as Jacques Offenbach's Fantasio are slated to enliven the stage in early 2017.
Theatre Mogador. Credit: David Sanger / Getty Images
One of the more modern theatres in the area is Theatre Mogador on Rue de Mogador, which was completed in 1919 and designed by British theatre architect Bertie Crewe of Lyceum Theatre fame. The theatre was the brainchild of Sir Alfred Butt, a fellow Brit who some say built the 1600-capacity theatre to please his French lover and stage performer, Regine Flory. The style of this theatre is far less opulent when compared to some of the theatres and operas in the neighborhood, as it was designed to resemble the London Palladium. The theatre underwent extensive reconstruction in the early ’80s and was purchased by Dutch entertainment company Stage Entertainment in 2005. Under their current management, crowd favourites such as Cats, Sister Act and Holiday on Ice have been performed here.
Modelled after London's Alhambra, Folies Bergère on Rue Richer was Paris’s first music hall. It was opened during the Belle Epoque period in 1869, a time of flourishing peace, prosperity and the arts. The theatre originally offered a mix of performances – from pantomime to opera – but later started to show an eclectic mix of entertainment, such as circus acts, ballet, vaudeville sketches and, eventually, female nude performers, which the venue would be known for during much of the 1900s. During this time, the theatre hosted salacious and sensual performances by the likes of Josephine Baker. Folies Bergère's current incarnation is less niche and sultry, but still wildly popular as they host a range of productions – from children's plays to conferences to concerts.
Opening in 1792, the Gaumont Opéra was originally known as Théâtre du Vaudeville, but after a series of moves it found a home on the corner of Rue de La Chaussee-d'Antin and Boulevard des Italiens, where a new three-level and 1920-capacity theatre was built in 1868. Mega Hollywood film corporation Paramount Pictures bought the theatre during the Golden Age of Hollywood in 1927 and converted the space into a movie theatre, renamed it and had British architect Frank Verity remodel the space. Gaumont Opéra is the go-to spot in the neighborhood to catch the latest films on the big screen. It has gone through a series of remodelling, but still retains its Art Deco-style main entrance and Italian Renaissance-style auditorium.
The art of opéra and theatre is buoyant in France's capital, with a plethora of productions concentrated in the neighbourood around the iconic Millennium Hotel Paris Opéra. Although the nature of theatre-going in Paris has changed over the centuries, its theatre-focused districts keep the art alive.