Last updated on September 7th, 2017
Opera, theatre and performance arts in Paris
Palais Garnier, rue Scribe et rue Auber, 75009 Paris
Opéra Bastille, place de la Bastille, 75012 Paris
L’Opéra de Paris (the Paris Opera) was founded in 1669 by Louis XIV, the “Sun King”. The Palais Garnier completed in 1875 is a masterpiece of neo-baroque architecture and opulently adorned with gold, heavy velvets and glimmering chandeliers. Numerous stairwells and cozy alcoves provide opportunities for social mingering during intermissions, while the Grand Foyer and Staircase are great spots to see and be seen. Even if you are not a fan of ballet, the Palais Garnier ought to be on your list of historical landmarks in Paris. Inaugurated in 1989, the Opera Bastille, also part of the Opéra de Paris, is a gigantic complex design to hold opera performances for the masses. The 2,700 seats are designed to be acoustically consistent. A limited number of 5 euro standing tickets are available from automated tellers at Bastille 90 minutes before the show. These days there is no need to be part of the Second Empire’s elite to enjoy a popular night out at the Paris Opera.
#221 avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris
La Cité de la Musique (the City of Music) is yet another Grand Projet (Great Project) that fits perfectly within France’s tradition of building massive state sponsored cultural landmarks. Unless you are tone deaf, you will find something to like at this sprawling complex inaugurated in 1995 and still expanding at the edge of the City of Paris. Anything goes: jazz, funk, classical, romantic, baroque, twentieth century classical, world music, rap, hip hop… From Pierre Boulez to Sonic Youth, la Cité de la Musique offers a plethora of concerts, conferences, workshops and exhibitions. Check out the Music Museum and its repertoire of instruments from around the globe.
#1 place du Châtelet, 75001 Paris
Completed in 1862 under the heydays of Baron Haussman’s urban planning of Paris, the Théâtre du Châtelet is mainly used for dance performance, concerts and musicals. Household French oldies but goodies also give regular recitals here. The auditorium seats 2500 people and is conveniently located at the centre of Paris, a short distance walk across the Seine from the Latin Quarter.
3 bis rue Papin, 75003 Paris
Of the original Theatre of Lyrical Gaety, built in 1862, only the facade, entrance and foyer remain. Much of the original auditorium was bulldozed in the late 1980s to build a cartoonish amusement park that survived a mere few weeks. The theatre was mothballed for the major parts of two decades. The City of Paris finally reopened the Gaîté Lyrique in 2011 as a venue for modern music and digital arts. Connoisseurs of below or just above the radar music acts should check the programme regularly, and will undoubtedly appreciate the savvy selection of international and home grown artists, including French Maghrebian ska and rap from the banlieue, the suburbs of Paris.
place Colette, 75001 Paris
Growing up in Paris involves going countless times with your classmates to a performance by the theatre company of the Comédie Française (the French Comedy). Founded in 1680, this state troop revels in the plays of Molière, France’s most revered playwright. Even if your mastery of the French language is only approximate, have no fear, your average Parisian hardly understands 16th century French. Head for the Comédie Française after a day at the Louvre… For a quintessential Parisian experience, laugh and cry with the rest of the audience. All time favourites include: Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (the Bourgeois Gentleman), Les Précieuses Ridicules (The Ridiculous Précieuses), Les Fourberies de Scapin (Scapin’s Deceits), l’Avare (the Miser), le Misanthrope…