On July 27, 1982, François Mitterrand charged Jack Lang his Minister of Culture with the task of commissioning an opera equipped with a principal auditorium of 2,500 to 3,200 seats, an additional theatre space for experimental works, and the ancillary spaces necessary to create an “Opera House”. An architectural competition ensued which, unexpectedly, was won by a young unknown by the name of Carlos Ott (born 1946).
Among the objectives, it was imperative to build an effective production and performance tool that could accommodate more spectators than the Palais Garnier while keeping prices affordable at an institution which would be accessible every evening. Between tradition and the future, the desire to create a new opera was driven by the ambition to provide the ideal apparatus for the opera arts at the dawn of the third millennium.
In its thirty years of existence, the Opéra Bastille has helped to augment the international renown of the Paris Opera. The principal venue of opera production in Paris, the Opéra Bastille is also a vast workshop. Alongside the members of the Opera’s ballet, orchestra and chorus, the 1,600 employees who ensure the smooth running of the public institution are comprised of stage managers, scene-shifters, technicians, costume-makers, carpenters, sculptors, wood carvers, painters and numerous other artisans. Since Hector Berlioz’s "Les Troyens" inaugurated the theatre in March 1990, countless productions have been performed on its stage. As a direct result of the potential which the building affords, directors, artists and all those associated with them, an “Opéra Bastille” culture was born.
In order to capture the identity of the opera house, this book looks back at the origins of a major public project born from a political decision and two separate narratives: architecture and the performing arts. By exploring behind the scenes in this hive of activity, Christine Desmoulins explains how its creators strove to overcome the many engineering and acoustic challenges.
- A century after the Palais Garnier, the Opéra Bastille
- Serving the operatic arts of the third millennium
- Planning and creating the architecture of a people’s opera for the 21st century
- The choice of location and the architectural competition
- A complex construction project
- The main auditorium and its acoustics
- The stage, its “clone”, the backstage areas and stage machinery
- The Opéra Bastille - a vast workshop
- Thirty years of an Opera on a path to the future
- The anticipated opening of the modular facility and the extension of the ateliers
Interview with Carlos Ott
Regards on the Opéra Bastille - Portfolio
Further afield… The architecture of other Operas around the world: The Royal Opera House, London; La Scala, Milan; the Copenhagen Opera; the Oslo Opera.
Annexes - Bibliographic references, biographical references
Journalist and architecture critic Christine Desmoulins is the author of numerous works. After the publication of her monograph on Bernard Zehrfuss (Éditions du patrimoine, coll. “Carnets d’architectes”, 2008), she was the curator of two exhibitions: “Bernard Zehrfuss, la poétique de la structure” at the Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine (2014, with Corinne Bélier) and “Bernard Zehrfuss, la spirale du temps” at the Musée gallo-romain de Lyon-Fourvière (2015-2016, with Hugues Savay-Guerraz). She is also the author of Le Siège de l'Unesco (Éditions du patrimoine, coll. "Regards...", 2017).