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12 09 2010


Paris Opera

The Paris Opera (French: Opéra de Paris) is the primary opera company of Paris, France. Currently the official name is the Opéra national de Paris. It was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV as the Académie d'Opéra and shortly thereafter became the Académie royale de Musique. The company primarily produces operas at its modern theatre Opéra Bastille which opened in 1989, and ballets at the older Palais Garnier which opened in 1875.

Front of the Palais Garnier illuminated at night
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[edit] History [edit] The Opéra under Louis XIV Pierre Perrin

On 28 June 1669 Louis XIV granted a 12-year privilege to Pierre Perrin to set up the Académie d'Opéra for the performance of operas in French. He was charged with making opera better known to the public not only in Paris but in the other towns and cities of the kingdom of France. Since its only financial resources came from box-office receipts without a royal subsidy, the Opéra was granted the privilege of putting on "pièces de théâtre en musique", with a ban on anyone else doing the same without gaining authorization from its owners.[1]

Perrin converted the Bouteille tennis court into a rectangular facility with provisions for stage machinery and scenery changes and a capacity of about 1200 spectators. His first opera Pomone with music by Robert Cambert opened on 3 March 1671 and ran for 146 performances. A second work Les peines et les plaisires de l'amour with a libretto by Gabriel Gilbert and music by Cambert was performed in 1672.[1]

Jean-Baptiste Lully

Despite this early success Cambert and two other associates did not hesitate to swindle Perrin, who was imprisoned for debt and forced to concede his privilege on 13 March 1672 to the surintendant of the king's music Jean-Baptiste Lully. The institution was renamed the Académie Royale de Musique and came to be known simply as the Opéra. Within one month Lully had convinced the king to expand the privilege by restricting the French and Italian comedians to using two singers rather than six, and six instrumentalists rather than twelve. Because of legal difficulties Lully could not use the Salle de la Bouteille, and a new theatre was built by Carlo Vigarani at the Bel Air tennis court on the Rue de Vaugirard.[1] Later, Lully and his successors bitterly negotiated the concession of the privilege, in whole or in part, from the entrepreneurs in the provinces: in 1684 Pierre Gautier bought the authorisation to open a music academy in Marseille, then the towns of Lyon, Rouen, Lille and Bordeaux followed suit in the following years.

During Lully's tenure the only works performed were his own. The first productions were the pastorale Les fêtes de l'Amour et de Bacchus (November 1672) and his first tragedie lyrique called Cadmus et Hermione (27 April 1673).[1]

After Molière's death in 1673, his troupe merged with the players at the Théâtre du Marais to form the Théâtre Guénégaud (at the same theatre that had been used by the Académie d'Opéra), and no longer needed the theatre built by Richelieu at his residence the Palais-Royal, near the Louvre. (In 1680 the troupe at the Guénégaud merged again with the players from the Hôtel de Bourgogne forming the Comédie-Française.)[2] Richelieu's theatre had been designed by Jacques Le Mercier and had opened in 1641, and unlike the huge theatre at the Tuileries Palace, which could accommodate 6,000 to 8,000 spectators, was of a size consistent with good acoustics. Lully greatly desired a better theatre and was able to convince the king to let him use the one at the Palais-Royal free of charge. The theatre at the Palais-Royal had been altered in 1660 and 1671, but Lully, with 3,000 livres he received from the king, was able to have further changes made by Vigarani in 1674.[2] The theatre had a total capacity of about 1,270 spectators: a parterre for 600 standing, amphitheatre seating for 120, and boxes with balconies accommodating another 550. The stage was 9.4 meters across and 17 meters deep with space in front for the orchestra 7.6 meters across and 3 meters deep.[3]

The first production in the new theatre was Alceste on 19 January 1674. The opera was bitterly attacked by those enraged at the restrictions that Lully had caused to be placed on the French and Italian comedians. To mitigate the damage Louis XIV arranged for new works to be premiered at the court, usually at the Chateau Vieux of the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye. This had the further advantage of subsidizing the cost of rehearsals, as well as most of the machinery, sets, and costumes, which were donated to the Opéra for use in Paris.[4] During Lully's time at the Opéra performances were given all year except for three weeks at Easter. Regular performances were on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. The premieres presented at court were usually during Carnival and were moved to the Palais-Royal after Easter, where the openings were on Thursday. About two to three new works were mounted each year. In all, thirteen of Lully's tragédie en musique were performed there (see the list of compositions by Jean-Baptiste Lully).[3]

After Lully

After Lully died in 1687 the number of new works per year almost doubled, since his successors (Pascal Collasse, Henri Desmarets, André Campra, André Cardinal Destouches, and Marin Marais) had greater difficulty sustaining the interest of the public. Revivals of Lully's works were common. French composers at the Opéra generally wrote music to new librettos, which had to be approved by the directors of the company. The Italian practice of preparing new settings of existing librettos was considered controversial and did not become the norm in Paris until around 1760. One the most important of the new works during this period was an opéra-ballet by Campra called L'Europe galante presented in 1697.[3]


The ballet of that time was merely an extension of the opera, having yet to evolve into an independent form of theatrical art. Louis XIV, who was a dancer himself and one of the great architects of baroque ballet (the art form which would one day evolve into classical ballet), had established a ballet school in 1661 as the Académie royale de Danse with the mission of training artists and codifying choreography.[5] From 1680 until Lully's death in 1687 the school was under the direction of the great dancing master Pierre Beauchamp, the man who codified the five positions of the feet.[6] In 1713 Louis XIV made the Opéra a state institution with a resident company of professional dancers known as the Ballet de l'Opéra. The king's ballet school remained separate, and in the 1780s it disappeared.

[edit] Company names after the Revolution
The Salle de la rue de Richelieu, principal venue of the Académie Royale de Musique from 1794-1820

With the French Revolution and the founding of the Republic, the company was renamed the Théâtre de la République et des Arts and in 1794 moved into the Théâtre de la rue de la Loi which had a capacity of 2800. Napoleon took control of the company in 1802 and with the declaration of the French Empire in 1804 renamed the company the Académie impériale de Musique.[7] With the Restoration in 1814, the company was renamed to the Académie royale de Musique. It became part of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1816. In 1821 the company moved to the Salle Le Peletier, which had a capacity of 1900 spectators and where it remained until the building was destroyed by fire in 1873. In the second half of the 19th century with the ascension of Napoleon III in 1851 the name Académie impériale de Musique was reinstated and after 1870 with the formation of the Third Republic was changed to Théâtre national de l'Opéra.[8] In 1875, the institution occupied a new home, the Palais Garnier.[9] In 1939 the Opéra was merged with the Opéra-Comique and the company name became Réunion des Théâtres Lyriques Nationaux. The Opéra-Comique was closed in 1972 with the appointment of Rolf Liebermann as general administrator of the Théâtre national de l'Opéra de Paris (1973–1980), but in 1976 the Opéra-Comique was restored. In 1990 the Opéra moved its primary venue to the Opéra-Bastille, becoming the Opéra de Paris, although it continued to mount productions, primarily ballet, at the Palais Garnier; and the Opéra-Comique regained its autonomy. In 1994 the Opéra de Paris became the Opéra national de Paris.[5] Regardless of all the changes in its "official" name, the company and its theatres, were commonly referred to as the Opéra de Paris or simply the Opéra.

[edit] List of official company names Date Official name Notes Ref
28 June 1669 Académie d'Opéra Perrin granted license by Louis XIV. [1]
13 March 1672 Académie Royale de Musique Lully granted license by Louis XIV. [1]
24 June 1791 Opéra Louis XVI flees Paris 21 June. [10]
29 June 1791 Académie de Musique Louis XVI returns to Paris 25 June. [10]
17 September 1791 Académie Royale de Musique Royal family attends opera 20 September. [10]
15 August 1792 Académie de Musique Louis XVI arrested 13 August. [10]
12 August 1793 Opéra Ratification of the Constitution of 1793. [10]
18 October 1793 Opéra National Republican Calendar adopted 24 October. [10]
26 July 1794 Théâtre des Arts Opéra moves to the Salle Montansier. [11]
1797 Théâtre de la République et des Arts   [11]
1803 Théâtre des Arts   [11]
1804 Académie Impériale de Musique First Empire (Napoleon) (18 May). [11]
1814 Académie Royale de Musique First Restoration (April). [11]
1815 Académie Impériale de Musique Hundred Days of Napoleon (20 March). [11]
1815 Académie Royale de Musique Second Restoration (8 July). [11]
4 August 1830 Théâtre de l'Opéra Charles X abdicates (2 August). [12]
10 August 1830 Académie Royale de Musique July Monarchy. [12]
26 February 1848 Théâtre de la Nation Second Republic. [12]
29 March 1848 Opéra-Théâtre de la Nation   [12]
2 September 1850 Académie Nationale de Musique   [12]
2 December 1852 Académie Impériale de Musique Second Empire (Napoleon III). [12]
1 July 1854 Théâtre Impérial de l'Opéra Supervision assumed by Imperial Household.[13] [12]
4 September 1870 Théâtre de l'Opéra Third Republic. [12]
17 September 1870 Théâtre National de l'Opéra   [12]
1939 Réunion des Théâtres Lyriques Nationaux Opéra takes control of Opéra-Comique. [5][14]
1973 Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris Rolf Liebermann, general administrator. [5][15]
1990 Opéra de Paris Move to the Opéra Bastille. [5]
1994 Opéra National de Paris   [5]
[edit] List of principal venues Theatre Dates used Notes Ref
Salle de la Bouteille 3 March 1671 – 1 April 1672 Located on the Rue Mazarine;[16] eventually demolished. [17][18]
Salle du Bel-Air 10? November 1672 – June 1673 Located on the Rue de Vaugirard; also called Jeu de Paume de Béquet;[19] eventually demolished. [19][20]
Salle du
Palais-Royal (1st)
16 June 1673 – 6 April 1763 Built 1641; altered 1660, 1671, and 1674;[21] destroyed by fire 6 April 1763. [22]
Salle des Tuileries 29 April 1764 – 1770 Remodeled first to a much smaller theatre by Soufflot.[23] [24]
Salle du
Palais-Royal (2nd)
20 January 1770 – 8 June 1781 Destroyed by fire 8 June 1781. [25]
Salle des
14 August – 23 October 1781 Located on the Rue Bergère; former theate of the Foire St. Laurent; eventually demolished. [26]
Théâtre de la
Porte Saint-Martin
27 October 1781 – 7 March 1794 Built in two months by Samson-Nicholas Lenoir at the request of Marie Antoinette. [26]
Théâtre National
de la rue de la Loi
26 July 1794 – 13 February 1820 Montansier's 1793 theatre; street name restored to Rue de Richelieu in 1806; theatre demolished 1820; site now Square Louvois.[27] [11]
Salle Favart (1st) 19 April 1820 – 11 May 1821 Theatre of the Opéra-Comique on the Place Boieldieu; destroyed by fire on 13–14 January 1838.[28] [8][29]
Salle Louvois 25 May – 15 June 1821 Built in 1791; the company performed there 3 times: 25 May, and 1 and 15 June. [29]
Salle Le Peletier 16 August 1821 – 28 October 1873 Built on the Rue Le Peletier as temporary quarters; destroyed by fire 28–29 October 1873. [29]
Salle Ventadour 19 January 1874 – 30 December 1874 Shared the theatre with its long-time occupant the Théâtre-Italien until the Palais Garnier was completed. [9][30]
Palais Garnier 5 January 1875 – present Designed by Charles Garnier; located at the Place de l'Opéra. [9][30]
Opéra Bastille 13 July 1989 – present Designed by Carlos Ott; the official opening concert was on 13 July 1989 to celebrate the bicentennial of the French Revolution. [5][31]
[edit] Other Parisian opera companies and theatres

In the period from 1725 to 1791 there were essentially four public theatres which were permitted in Paris:[23]

In 1762 the Opéra-Comique merged with the Comédie-Italienne.

In 1791 the laws were changed allowing almost anyone to open a public theatre. This led to rapid growth in the number of theatres and companies and complexities in their naming. Theatres might burn down and be rebuilt using the name of an old or new company or patron. Some of the new theatres that appeared during this period include:[32]

After about 1870 the situation was simpler with regard to opera with primarily the Opéra and the Opéra-Comique in operation. The naming situation became somewhat confusing after the Opéra-Comique's theater (the second Salle Favart) burned on 25 May 1887, since the company began performing in other locations. Companies other than the Opéra producing operas or operettas at various theatres in this period included:[33]

[edit] See also [edit] References
  1. ^ a b c d e f Harris-Warrick, Rebecca. "Paris. 2. 1669–1725" in Sadie (1992) 3: 856.
  2. ^ a b Anthony, James R. (2001). "Paris. III. 1600–1723" in Sadie (2001).
  3. ^ a b c Harris-Warrick, Rebecca (1992). "Paris. 2. 1669–1725" in Sadie (1992) 3: 856–857.
  4. ^ La Gorce, Jérôme de (2001). "Lully. (1) Jean-Baptiste Lully. 1. Life" in Sadie (2001).
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Opéra national de Paris - Histoire de l’Opéra national de Paris" at the official website (French). Retrieved 25 March 2010.
  6. ^ Costonis, Maureen Needham (1992). "Beauchamps [Beauchamp] Pierre" in Sadie (1992) 1: 364.
  7. ^ "Book Reviews: Napoléon et l'Opéra: La politique sur la scéne, 1810–1815 by David Chaillou." The English Historical Review 122 (496): 486–490 (2007). doi:10.1093/ehr/cem021.
  8. ^ a b Charlton, David (1992). "Paris. 4. 1789–1870." in Sadie (1992) 3: 866–867.
  9. ^ a b c Langham Smith, Richard (1992). "Paris. 5. 1870–1902." in Sadie (1992) 3: 874.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Pitou (1983) 1: 30–31.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Pitou (1983) 1: 38.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i Levin, Alicia. "A documentary overview of musical theaters in Paris, 1830–1900" in Fauser (2009), p. 382.
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