Opéra national de Paris



by Alice Lechner
August 14, 2020


Palais Garnier is one of the most important buildings in Paris. The building was built in an eclectic style, and it is the thirteenth theatre that has hosted the Paris Opera since its founding in 1669. It is known as the Paris Opera, but since the construction of the Bastille Opera in 1989, it has been known as the Opera Garnier. Palais Garnier dates back to the time of Napoleon III, and it was part of an urban modernization plan. On December 30th, 1860, Napoleon III announced an architectural design competition for the new opera house. The famous architects Charles Rohault de Fleury and Eugene Viollet-de-Duc also participated in this competition. The contest took place in two phases. Charles Garnier’s project was one of the many admitted projects in the first phase. After that, each participant had to express his project through one motto. Garnier used “bramo assai, poco spero” (“Hope for much, expect little“). The second phase required the contestants to revise their original projects. Finally, on May 30th, 1861, Charles Garnier won the competition. A year later, work began on the new opera house. Officially, on July 21st, 1862, Count Walewski laid the foundation stone of the building.

Construction continued until 1868, when the works were interrupted, and in 1870 the Franco-German war broke out. During the war (1870-1871), the building was transformed into a warehouse and was damaged. On the night of October 28th-29th, 1873, a devastating fire destroyed the Opera Le Peletier. Under these conditions, the new French government was forced to resume construction of the Palais Garnier. The theatre was inaugurated on January 5th, 1875. The opening show was a gala attended by great officials such as Marshal MacMahon, the Lord Mayor of London and King Alfonso XII of Spain. The plan of the work developed a type of construction which was very common in France at that time. The exterior of the stage house reflects its interior structure, and it is designed to ensure the representation of the modern works of the time, such as Les Huguenots by Giacomo Meyerbeer or Faust by Charles Gounod, which required huge scenery and frequent stage changes. Palais Garnier was the main theatre in Paris. It was associated with the Paris Opera Ballet until 1989 when the Opera Bastille was inaugurated.

Since then, the company has used the Palais Garnier for ballet performances. Since 1923, the theatre has become one of France’s historical monuments, considered “probably the most famous opera house in the world, a symbol of Paris like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, or the Sacre Coeur Basilica”. This is partly due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s novel “Phantom of the Opera “and, especially, the novel’s subsequent adaptations in films and the 1986 musical. Another contributing factor is that, among the buildings constructed in Paris during the Second Empire, besides being the most expensive, it has been described as the only one “unquestionably a masterpiece of the first rank “. Opera Bastille The idea for a new “popular and modern” opera house in Paris came up in the 1880s, only years after the opening of the Palais Garnier. In 1981, the new president Francois Mitterrand included the construction of a new opera house in his program. Thus, shortly after, a contest was organized to select an architect. In November 1983, the contest was won by Carlos Ott. The construction began with the demolition of Bastille Station in 1984. Five years later, the new building was ready. The building was inaugurated by Francois Mitterrand on July 13th 1989, on the eve of the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. A semi-staged gala concert, directed by Robert Wilson under the title la Nuit avant le jour (The Night Before the Day), was conducted by Georges Pretre and featured singers such as Teresa Berganza and Placido Domingo. The first performance at Bastille Opera was Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz, directed by Pier Luigi Pizzi, on March 17th, 1990. However, even today, the building still draws criticism for its external appearance, just like the Pompidou Centre, The Louvre Pyramid, and the other modern iconic buildings in Paris do. Yet, seeing more than 900,000 spectators each year enjoying concerts, ballet, opera and other performances, the Opera Bastille also hosts some of the world’s greatest musicians, stage directors and choreographers, which will no doubt continue for many years to come.


Sir Colin Davis
Colin Rex Davis was born on September 25th, 1927, in Weybridge, Surrey, England, and was known for his exceptional interpretations of a wide range of classical and contemporary repertoire. His early exposure to music was through the clarinet, which he started playing at a young age. His interest in conducting developed during his time at...
November 2023
Alice Lechner
Teatro Massimo
We continue our Theaters around the World column, and in this issue, we arrive in Sicily, more precisely in Palermo. It is known that Teatro Massimo di Palermo was, for a long time, the third largest opera house in Europe, after Palais Garnier and Wiener Staatsoper. The construction of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Sicily,...
November 2023
Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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