Abbé Perrin (Director of...
The project to build the Opéra Bastille was very different from all of the Opera’s previous construction projects because it was not about replacing a theatre that had been destroyed but, rather, anticipating the Opera’s needs in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Palais Garnier accommodated too few spectators and generated too little revenue in relation to the high operating costs. From a technical point of view, it struggled to meet the desire for more ambitious programming. In 1981, as part of his Grand Projects for Paris, François Mitterrand approved the construction of a “modern, people’s” opera. The Place de la Bastille was chosen not only for its inherent symbolism in relation to the bicentenary of the French Revolution but also because it would re-balance the geographic spread of Paris’s theatres which were primarily located in the west of the city.
The specifications where drafted by Rolf Liebermann’s former assistant, the director Michael Dittmann. It was an ambitious project: A huge stage, an audience capacity of 2,700, 16 lateral stages, an auditorium, a studio, an amphitheatre, but also space for workshops, studios, rehearsal halls and administrative offices. Out of the 757 proposals that were submitted, Carlos Ott’s project was ultimately selected: Semi-circular by design, the building merged into the Place de la Bastille, even though it was not to the taste of all the residents when work began in 1984. The project faltered due to a lack of political support during the period of cohabitation (when power was shared between two antagonistic political blocs), nevertheless the then Minister of Culture Jack Lang saw the project through to its conclusion. Only the construction of the planned modular auditorium was postponed. It is now scheduled to open in 2023.
On its inauguration on July 13 1989, the world was introduced to a vast theatre with highly sophisticated acoustics. The Opéra Bastille became the theatre with the largest stage in existence and its extraordinary dimensions enabled the theatre to house the sets for several productions at once without having to disassemble them. This allows it to stage five productions simultaneously. Performances truly began at the Bastille in 17 March 1990 with Pier Luigi Pizzi’s production of Les Troyens (Berlioz).
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