The Opera National de Paris, the successor of the Académie Royale de Musique founded in Paris by Louis XIV in 1669, is one of the oldest musical institutions in Europe. Formerly housed in Paris’ Palais Royal, it has had several different homes and now occupies two landmark buildings, the Palais Garnier and the Opéra Bastille.
The Garnier Palace, also known as Garnier Opera is one of the most impressive buildings of the French capital. Napoleon III commissioned its construction to the architect Charles Garnier, who designed it in Neo-Baroque style. Since its opening in 1875, it is has been one of the most admired places by opera-loving Parisians. Comparable to La Scala of Milan, Italy; the Wiener Staatsoper in Austria and the Semper Opera in Dresden, Germany; the Paris Opera is a luxurious and historical space and an absolute must on your next trip to the Ville-Lumière (City of Light).
Opéra Bastille, meanwhile, is a modern theater, which opened its doors on July 13, 1989 to celebrate the bicentennial of the fall of the Bastille. The curved glass building, designed by the Uruguayan architect Carlos Ott, departs from the traditional design of the 19th-century opera houses. With five mobile scenarios, the Opéra Bastille is a technological masterpiece. For the 2014-15 season, the Opera National de Paris presents a varied program in both spaces. Here we take a look at two of the most talked about presentations of the season: Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio and La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini.
«The Abduction from the Seraglio» by Mozart
October 16, 2014 to February 15, 2015 // Palais Garnier
The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782) was the first grand opera in German. It was created in Singspiel, an operatic style in which the text is spoken and sung alternately, and which differs from traditional operas for its simpler musical forms. Set during the time of Ottoman influence in Austria, Mozart used Turkish orchestration to beautify a score that extols the humanist values of tolerance and faithfulness in love. It is a celebration of human kindness, and a metaphor of the struggle between freedom and all forms of absolutism. The opera revolves around Belmonte—the central character—relentless pursuit to save his beloved Konstanze from the yoke of Pasha Selim. Directed by Zabou Breitman, the principal roles will be sung in German by the magnificent Jürgen Maurer, Erin Morley and Albina Shagimuratova.
«La Bohème» by Giacomo Puccini
November 30 to December 30, 2014 // Bastille Opera
This famous Puccini opera in four acts was released in 1896. It has one of the simplest arguments imaginable: a young couple in love is separated by life circumstances and then meet again. The action takes place in bohemian Paris, where art is omnipresent in every corner, with its bustling cafes and artists who desperately yearn for fame. In an emotional display of pure romance, Puccini fills La Bohème with unforgettable musical images of love, separation and a heartbreaking, tragic ending. Sung in Italian and performed by the Opera National de Paris in collaboration with the Teatro Comunale of Florence, La bohème is a fan’s favorite in the company’s extensive repertoire. The dynamic and brilliant libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica is based on Henri Murger’s novel Scènes de la Vie de Bohème. This production is directed by Jonathan Miller and starring, among others, Ana María Martínez, Nicole Cabell, Khachatur Badalyan and Tassis Christoyannis. The show has the invaluable contribution of the institution’s orchestra and chorus, led by music director Mark Elder. “La bohème” is an unbeatable emotional and artistic experience. ■