Opera
New

La Vestale

by Gaspare Spontini

Bastille Opera

from 15 June to 11 July 2024

Book
Concerts and Recitals

ADO concert (Apprentissage de l’Orchestre)

the first youth lyric orchestra scheme in France

Bastille Opera

on 16 June 2024 at 7:30 pm

Book
Opera

Così fan tutte

by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Palais Garnier

Book

Don’t miss

See more

Opera

Falstaff

Giuseppe Verdi

Opéra Bastille
from 10 to 30 September 2024
Book

Opera

Madama Butterfly

Giacomo Puccini

Opéra Bastille
from 14 September to 25 October 2024
Book

Opera

Les Brigands

Jacques Offenbach

Palais Garnier
from 21 September 2024 to 12 July 2025
Book

News

See all the news
  • Learn more

    09 June 2024

    New

    Paris Opera pays tribute to Éric Vu An

  • Learn more

    30 May 2024

    Creation of the Paris Opera Junior Ballet

  • Learn more

    25 May 2024

    The Paris Opera pays tribute to Hugues R. Gall, its director from 1995 to 2004

  • Learn more

    26 April 2024

    Exhibition "Le Serment d’Opéra"

  • Learn more

    23 April 2024

    Opéra national de Paris selected to take part in ICC Immersion South Korea and ICC Immersion United Arab Emirates

  • Learn more

    19 April 2024

    Cast change: Don Quichotte

  • Learn more

    08 April 2024

    Tous à l'Opéra ! Édition 2024

  • Learn more

    27 March 2024

    Prix de l'Arop season 2022/2023

  • Learn more

    26 March 2024

    Bleuenn Battistoni nominated Danseuse Étoile de l'Opéra national de Paris

  • Learn more

    20 March 2024

    The artistic programme 24/25 is online !

Life at the Opera

  • Draw-me La Vestale
    Video

    Draw-me La Vestale

  • Draw-me Così fan tutte
    Video

    Draw-me Così fan tutte

  • Podcast La Vestale with France Musique
    Video

    Podcast La Vestale with France Musique

  • Dancing with words
    Video

    Dancing with words

  • La Vestale: a prophetic opera - Interview with Lydia Steier
    Video

    La Vestale: a prophetic opera - Interview with Lydia Steier

  • All the same, men and women alike
    Article

    All the same, men and women alike

  • Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff
    Article

    Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff

  • The lighting for Madama Butterfly
    Article

    The lighting for Madama Butterfly

  • Draw-me Madama Butterfly
    Video

    Draw-me Madama Butterfly

Draw-me La Vestale

Watch the video

Understand the plot in 1 minute

1:17 min

Draw-me La Vestale

By Matthieu Pajot

Draw-me Così fan tutte

Watch the video

Understand the plot in 1 minute

1:37 min

Draw-me Così fan tutte

By Matthieu Pajot

Podcast La Vestale with France Musique

Listen the podcast

Dance! Sing! Tales of Opera and Ballet

Podcast La Vestale with France Musique

By Charlotte Landru-Chandès

© Anne Van Aerschot

Dancing with words

Watch the video

Backstage with Cosi fan tutte

4:00 min

Dancing with words

By Octave

A l’occasion de la nouvelle production de Così fan tutte mise en scène par Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, rencontre en répétition avec les chanteurs Edwin Crossley-Mercer (Guglielmo) et Michèle Losier (Dorabella), et les danseurs Michaël Pomero (Guglielmo) et Cynthia Loemij (Fiordiligi).    

La Vestale: a prophetic opera - Interview with Lydia Steier

Listen the podcast

5:47 min

La Vestale: a prophetic opera - Interview with Lydia Steier

By Isabelle Stibbe

After Salome, Lydia Steier returns to the Paris Opera with her new production of Gaspare Spontini's La Vestale.

She explains the synopsis, the work's place in the history of opera, her dramaturgical vision and the contribution of Elza van den Heever in the title role.

© Anne Van Aerschot

All the same, men and women alike

Read the article

Interview with Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

11 min

All the same, men and women alike

By Wannes Gyselinck

The Opera has invited choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker to stage Mozart's Così fan tutte. Literally: "All women behave the same way." The choreographer returns to the ambiguities of Così, misogynist for some, a forerunner to feminism for others.

Cosi fan tutte is often accused of being a misogynist work. What is your opinion on the question?


Così fan tutte
received an unusual welcome. Mozart composed the opera in 1790, a year after the French Revolution and a year before his death. These two shadows hover over the opera. This explains why, musically speaking, this comedy expresses a feeling of loss. We sense a farewell to life and a farewell to an era. The first unanimously acclaimed performances were followed by the sudden death of Joseph II, head of the Holy Roman Empire. He was not only Mozart's patron and protector, but also one of the most illustrious political figures of the Enlightenment. In particular, he had reformed marital law so that women could give their consent before marrying. In other words, they were able, for the first time, to choose their partner. After the French Revolution and the Terror came the bourgeois restoration with its stricter morals, at the expense of women, as always. In this transformed climate, Così fan tutte suddenly seemed too light, too frivolous, too sexually explicit. No doubt, the libretto was also responsible, walking the tightrope as it does between opera buffa and opera seria, between comic and serious.

The opera is not misogynous, quite the contrary. Both interpretations - misogyny and excessive frivolity – reveal, I feel, superficial reading. Above all, superficial listening. Prima the musica, dopo le parole. First the music, then the words. For it is in the music that everything is played out. The music transforms the burlesque banality of this boulevard comedy into a deeply melancholic, almost cosmic-religious contemplation on the relationship between desire and death, and on the complexity of the human soul. Especially the music of the female characters. In reality, the men are portrayed as idiots. They act like machos. Only their wives' faithfulness counts, it is a question of honour vis-à-vis other men. To be cuckolded, betrayed by another man, was the supreme humiliation. 


Could it be said that Mozart was a precocious feminist, in this case?


We are sure that in the last years of his life Mozart was very much influenced by the Enlightenment thinkers. Their ideas, which would eventually trigger the French Revolution, circulated in secret Viennese societies of which Mozart was a member - Freemasons, Rosicrucians and other esoteric clubs. To use the vocabulary of the Freemasons, these places were true workshops where they sought ways to transform the existing order on the basis of Reason. Don Alfonso's experiment should be read as a proposal to fundamentally challenge and reassess the established order between men and women, based on reason. It is a typical Enlightenment project.

Mozart adds a critical dimension to this project through music. As Don Alfonso's lesson in moral is expounded, the music takes on no triumphant tones, something unheard-of in an opera finale. It also holds back somewhat in the arias where Mozart gives wings to his characters' thoughts and to the complex hues of their sentimental lives, especially those of the women. The music takes on a depth that suggests the volcanic potential of animal desire and instincts, as well as their vulnerability. The fact that the dramatic and musical summits of the arias are those of the female characters owes nothing to chance. If Mozart suggests anything, it is that the sentimental life of women is more serious and more profound than that of men. Don Alfonso's moral lesson may perhaps shelter you from naivety or even the bruises of love, but Mozart seems to have strong doubts that placing all our trust in reason can make us happy.    


Should we conclude that the music casts a shadow over the moral lesson of the Enlightenment?


Yes, but the libretto is also less naive than one might think. Despina, the slightly older maid, is the female counterpart of Don Alfonso. While the men supposedly go off to war, she obliges the women, afflicted and left at home, to face reality. "Do you really think your fiancées who have gone to war will remain faithful? My young doves, have no illusions. Instead of sitting sobbing, do as I do, go hunting!" She makes a plea for feminine autonomy, for pleasure and a sense of reality. The process they undergo invites them to take a new look at relations between men and women.
For the men too, Ferrando first, make the unsettling observation that they may be in love with two women at the same time and that their courtly and aristocratic notion of love is too simplistic.

By trading their traditional uniforms for the exotic clothes of Albanian soldiers, they open a door that allows them to escape protocols. All of a sudden, love becomes a terra incognita, a laboratory where it is possible to carry out experiments without knowing the result in advance, even for the men. Così fan tutte's plot is often compared to a chemical process: four characters are merged and the audience observes the result.
© Anne Van Aerschot

If "Cosi" is an alchemical experiment, what is the gold produced at the end?


It's a tricky question. Because the new interactions, the newly-formed couples, are undone at the end. All the actors come out of the experiment in tatters. Nothing has changed in appearance, yet nothing can be as before. At the beginning of the opera, they possess an idealistic and naive idea of love. Love is eternal, unconditional, ultimate. This is unrealistic and even unreal: the men take their wives for goddesses; the women swoon in front of the portraits of their lovers. Actually, they are all in love with an idea. One cannot call it romanticism, for that is yet to come. Let's just say that their ideas about love are conventional. They are part of existing societal structures that serve to contain instincts and passions.

More so in women. The symbolic gold lies, therefore, in the invitation to accept more complex, less naive and more adult ideas about love. In my opinion, this is the true moral lesson: yes, it will hurt, love is indeed complicated, disturbing, uprooting; but nobody can do anything about it. We are very far from the "heroines" of romantic operas who go mad through love, or, deceived or abandoned, take their own lives in a Lucia di Lammermoor-style fit of hysteria. Isn't it in these romantic operas that we find true misogyny?


How would you explain them?


The period during which Mozart wrote the opera can also be seen as a transformation in the alchemical sense. The French Revolution, the transmission of power from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie, also bids farewell to the established order and heralds a quest for other possible forms. But these elements are not enough to explain the music's melancholy, which often occurs at times when the text is relatively commonplace. Take for example the two couples' moment of separation, in Soave sia il vento, when the men supposedly leave for war.
The music goes much further than the plot itself. Few pieces of music express with such nuance and force the relation between desire and death. Wherever the word "desire" is sung, Mozart places a chord containing an unknown, almost modern dissonance.

Desire is brought into tension from a harmonic point of view. The same thing happens in Le Nozze di Figaro when Barbarina loses her pin in the grass. She sings that she cannot find her pin and fears that the intrigue will be divulged. The statement could hardly be more banal on the surface. But the music is elegiac in beauty. Mozart expresses here a feeling of loss that we can frankly describe as existential. It is tempting to consider this scene in the light of his approaching and far-too premature death. In Mozart, this moment echoes a consciousness of concrete finitude, and also suggests a consciousness integrated into the whole.

How do you manage this tension between the libretto and the music in your staging?


The function of dance is to underline the tension between text and music, and even at times to emphasise it. As in Vortex Temporum, every musician, every singer in this case, is doubled by a dancer. This duplication creates a third visible voice alongside the music and the text. It was above all because of the music that, despite my doubts about opera as a medium, I accepted the Paris Opera's invitation: it is so full of movement, both bodily and emotional. Taking music as a starting point, I hope to attain a higher degree of abstraction, and through it discover the essence of the work. In most productions, the beauty and depth of the music is drowned under draperies, costumes, doors that open and close.

No effort is spared to make the intrigue and psychology clear. It is precisely these aspects that interest me the least. In this respect, Michael Haneke is the exception that confirms the rule. His approach was very realistic, yet his staging was masterful. Others update the situation, like Peter Sellars who transposes the story into a modern American diner and insists on the buffa aspect. My objective is different again: to use dance to disperse the tension between the instincts of life and death. How can we make Mozart's ideas readable or better still tangible, without interpreting them? How can dance elevate the anecdotal dimensions of the plot to a higher, more human, even cosmic level? How can we ensure that we are not talking about men and women but about masculine and feminine energies?   

What attracts you least for the moment in the classic man/woman dance scenario?


I am more interested in recursive phenomena that go beyond this biological polarity. It's not that I deny this polarity, but I seek to translate it into a more abstract form. I find it less and less interesting to embody it in its most primary and instinctive form - man set against woman. Just what interests me about dance is the possibility it offers to materialize the most abstract ideas. This development is also linked to aging: I feel a greater need for formalism in writing, to touch more on the essence of things.


Wannes Gyselinck is senior editor of rekto:verso.

© Eléna Bauer / OnP

Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff

Read the article

Interview with the stage director

04 min

Dominique Pitoiset looks back at Falstaff

By Marion Mirande

Dominique Pitoiset's production of Falstaff was created in 1991. Bursting with life, it is making a comeback at the Opéra Bastille, with Bryn Terfel in the title role. An occasion for the director to cast a fatherly eye on his now grown-up child.


Tell us about your first encounter with Falstaff.

I first got to know Falstaff through Shakespeare. At the time of this production's creation, I'd had some major successes in the theatre with Love's Labour's Lost, The Tempest and Macbeth. I had come out of the German school, and had been assistant to Karge and Langhoff, then Giorgio Strehler, who himself had been Bertolt Brecht's assistant. So my approach to Verdi came about via a post-Brechtian, "tangible" theatre. We thought about the mediation of objects, how to increase the focal points of the interaction between the singers. This worked rather well with Verdi because with him, the movements are "musicalised" – dictated by the musical writing.


How did you come to conceive this production and its aesthetic?

I had taken it on with the conviction that we shouldn't do anything too contemporary with it, while being aware that an Elizabethan aesthetic wouldn't dialogue at all well with Verdi's music. I thought it would be interesting to exploit the discrepancies by creating a world on stage that was visually closer to Verdi than Shakespeare. It's a production from the previous century, with an aesthetic that's a very far cry from my current projects. My standpoint would be different if I had to stage the work again. However, looking at the staging, I find it has a lot of charm, and I've immersed myself in it again just as you'd enjoy rediscovering an old comic book tucked away on a shelf.
This staging is full of the ghosts of those who have inhabited it – and there are a lot of them. At the opera, the history of revivals is full of memories and the human element. If a production works and carries on for years, it's thanks to the community of artists and technical teams who keep the whole idea alive. This is something we don't see as stage directors. Once the first night is over, we generally turn the page, ease off the pressure and move onto something else.

Dominique Pitoiset et Varduhi Abrahamyan (Mrs Quickly) en répétition
Dominique Pitoiset et Varduhi Abrahamyan (Mrs Quickly) en répétition © Eléna Bauer / OnP

How much room for manoeuvre do you have with a revival?

Changes always depend on the new singers' relationship with their roles, what their interpretation allows and the way they move. With time, I have learned to observe them. Then I can make adjustments and guide them along paths where they can develop. If you look at past revivals of this production, there have been some very different Falstaffs and Alices, for example. You have to factor in the artists' singularities and requirements. Opera is a world where, with very short rehearsal times, people are putting their reputations on the line, and it's pretty scary. With the passing years and each new project, my own fears have gradually subsided, and I now take great pleasure in helping performers confront their anxieties more calmly.


Can you tell us a bit about the character of Falstaff?

When I look back at this production, I think about the film by Orson Welles, and that brilliant scene, played with incredible finesse, when the young king ascends the throne. Falstaff, who knows him well, is in the crowd and shouts out to him, trying to attract his attention. But the king pretends not to see him, and magisterially disowns him. That scene alone encapsulates Falstaff: a buffoon for whom the whole world is just a joke – and that aspect is what deeply touched the maestro Verdi, I feel.

© Elena Bauer / OnP

The lighting for Madama Butterfly

Read the article

A production, a memory

02 min

The lighting for Madama Butterfly

By Rui De Matos Machado

Deputy head of the lighting department

“I know few other directors who place as much importance on lighting as Robert Wilson. He is present at every revival, requesting a significant number of lighting sessions to refine his lighting and enrich it with the experience gathered from other productions that have marked his personal development. I have worked with him on the lighting for Die Zauberflöte, Pelléas et Mélisande, and Madama ButterflyMadama Butterfly was our first collaboration.

When you think about the lighting for Bob’s productions, the first thing that comes to mind is the cyclorama—that stretched canvas upstage which helps to create huge and highly homogenous luminous surfaces… It’s a key feature of his aesthetic which works to define the atmosphere on stage. He doesn’t use it in a descriptive or realistic way to depict the sky for example, as so many other directors do. It’s a dynamic form of lighting which evolves and adapt to the ebbs and flows of the drama: it turns red when the bonze storms furiously on stage to reproach Cio-Cio-San for having repudiated her family; it takes on a truly poetic shade of deep blue when the child, in all its fragility, walks on stage… This interaction between the lighting and the characters is one of the characteristics of Wilson’s aesthetic: there is a continuity between the different components of the production, namely, the libretto, the music, the direction of the actors, the lighting…

A furious Bonze (Scott Wilde) enters to confront Cio-Cio-San (Svetla Vassileva) - 2014
A furious Bonze (Scott Wilde) enters to confront Cio-Cio-San (Svetla Vassileva) - 2014 © Elena Bauer/OnP

The lighting for “Butterfly” has evolved with the succession of revivals. The most remarkable aspect in that development is the trend toward cooler hues: He has less and less time for those warmer slightly amber-toned lights. He leans more towards blues. It’s a development which I can see in all his other productions. Does that mean that the atmosphere is more serious, more tragic? No. Not really. The crisp light blue of winter can be perfectly cheerful. If I had to describe that development, I would say that he is moving towards daylight…”

Draw-me Madama Butterfly

Watch the video

Understand the plot in 1 minute

1:07 min

Draw-me Madama Butterfly

By Octave

For his Madame Chrysanthème, Pierre Loti drew on memories of his own visit to Japan in 1885. When composing Madama Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini was inspired by the popular melodies and sonorities of Japanese voices. However, in the literary work, as in the opera, the heroine remains the same: Kiku-san or Cio‑Cio‑san, a young geisha betrayed by her western husband, the symbol of the meeting of two different worlds. Robert Wilson’s ethereal production espouses to perfection the dramatic intensity and underlying violence of this thoroughly Japanese tragedy.  

The Opera in streaming

POP - Paris Opera Play

Watch our greatest performances wherever you are with POP, the Paris Opera's streaming platform.

Discover

Free trial 7 days

Immerse in the Paris Opera universe

Follow us

Back to top