Place de l’Opéra, 9th
Tel 08 92 89 90 90
This beautiful theatre is home to the Ballet de l’Opera and is devoted almost exclusively to ballet and dance productions, both classic and contemporary, with a smaller selection of musical concerts and lesser-known operas throughout the year. Completely restored to all its gilded glory in the late 1990s (including the rooftop statues that are so shiny they look fake), the Palais Garnier has over 2000 seats. Home to the infamous Phantom of the Opéra (the novel by Gaston Leroux, not the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical), this jewel of Second Empire architecture has also been the setting for scenes in Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Marie-Antoinette (2006). During intermission it’s possible to wander around the different reception rooms and marble halls, peek into the private box seats, or strike a pose on the Grand Staircase with a glass of bubbly from the bar. There are usually no productions in August. Tickets €5-€160.
Historical Note: The Sun King Louis XIV not only created the first official ballet and opera company in 1661 (they performed at the royal court in Versailles , of course), he was an accomplished dancer himself. He opened the Académie Royale de la Danse in 1669 to establish dance as an official profession, and today the Ballet de l’Opéra is considered to be the best in the world, whose dancers train almost exclusively at the (renamed) Ecole de Danse de l’Opéra. Here’s a good article about the history of the Opéra Garnier.
Place de la Bastille, 12th
Tel 01 40 01 19 70
The contemporary Opéra Bastille was inaugurated in 1989 for the bicentennial of the French Revolution. Despite all the grumbling about its sterile, airport-like interior, the 2700-seat auditorium has superb acoustics, state-of-the-art stage equipment (and an exact replica of the main stage for rehearsals), and its own costume and scenery workshops. Home of the Opéra National de Paris, the annual opera program runs from well-loved classics to modern (even avant-garde) productions. The Opéra Bastille also hosts the Etoiles (stars) from the Ballet de l’Opéra (from the Palais Garnier) and musical concerts in its smaller auditoriums. The season runs from September through July. Tickets €5-€150. There are 62 standing places at the Opéra Bastille (you lean against a railing) available 90 minutes before the show for just €5. And if there are free seats after the curtain rises, the ushers might possibly consider letting you sit in one…don’t count on it though, bring comfy shoes!
Note on Opera Confusion: The Opéra Bastille and Opéra Garnier are known collectively as the Opéra de Paris, sharing a website and ticket sales . Be sure you confirm the location of the production when purchasing your seats.
Place Boieldieu, 2nd
Tel 08 25 00 00 58
This “Théatre Musical Populaire” once saw the première of Carmen in its beautiful interior. Today it specializes in operettas and musical comedies. Tickets €7-€150.
Théâtre de la Ville
2 Place du Châtelet, 4th
M° Châtelet-Les Halles
Tel 01 42 74 22 77
Once run by Sarah Bernhardt (the brasserie outside has been named after her in tribute), the Théatre de la Ville is known for its contemporary dance productions. Tickets €12-30.
Theatre des Champs-Elysées
15 Avenue Montaigne, 8th
Tel 01 49 52 50 50
This elegant theatre, built in 1913, is known for its star-packed seasonal program, with top opera, dance, orchestra, and vocal artists from around the world. A bit more expensive (no state funding), but worth every euro for its sumptuous decor and quality programming. Tickets €5-130.