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A project’s beginnings

In the 1970s, Paris had the prestigious theatre at the Palais Garnier for opera and ballet performances, but it no longer met the requirements of the contemporary era or the expectations of the public. Jean Vilar issued a report on the Paris Opera in 1968, which included input from Pierre Boulez and Maurice Béjart. In 1977, François Bloch-Lainé published a new, more severe report on the question. The need to build a new theatre became all the more evident as other countries constructed new opera houses that aimed to increase and better accommodate audiences and offer a larger number of productions.
In the aftermath of France’s 1981 presidential election, President François Mitterrand and his Minister of Culture Jack Lang launched a series of large-scale cultural construction projects. One of their priorities was a new opera house. Several sites were suggested for the new theatre: La Défense, the Parc de la Villette, Marne-la-Vallée, the derelict land once owned by carmaker Citroën on the Quai de Javel and the Place de la Bastille. The magic of the words “Opera” and “Bastille” combined proved extremely powerful and the choice of location was quickly made. On March 9 1982, the Élysée issued a statement: “This new, modern, people’s opera will make it possible to double the current number of performances while significantly reducing administration costs. It will ensure that Paris reassumes the international role that it rightfully deserves in this domain. This undertaking will be an opportunity to construct, in consultation with the City of Paris, an urban development project that will enhance and promote the Place de la Bastille, a symbolic gathering place…”

Le futur chantier de l’Opéra Bastille, reportage du 25 mars 1982

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