Opéra

Opéra ôpārä´ [key] (Académie de musique), former chief opera house of Paris, on the Place de l'Opéra, one of the main crossroads on the right bank of the Seine. Designed by J. L. C. Garnier and built between 1861 and 1875, it is formally known as the Palais Garnier, and also called the Opéra Garnier. One of the largest and most sumptuous theaters in the world, it has a smaller seating capacity than many lesser houses, because its huge stage and foyers and its famous grand staircase take up much of the room. On the polychromed facade of the Opéra is the masterwork of the sculptor J.-B. Carpeaux entitled The Dance. An opulently ornamented neo-baroque style building, the Opéra has been copied, on a reduced scale, by many opera houses throughout the world.

The home of grand opera in the 19th cent., it has retained its musical reputation as one of the world's foremost houses. With the opening of the newly constructed Bastille opera house in 1990, the company became the Opéra de Paris, and used the new house primarily for opera. In 1994 the company was renamed the Opéra National de Paris. Garnier's building underwent restoration from 1994 to 2007 and is now used for company opera and ballet performances; it also presents concerts and recitals.

The Paris Opéra Ballet grew out of the Royal Ballet Academy established (1661) by Louis XIV; early works were choreographed by Jean-Baptiste Lully and Molière. Its directors have included Serge Lifar (1930–44, 1947–58) and Rudolf Nureyev (1983–89). Virtually all dancers come through its associated school, which grew out of the National Ballet School (est. 1672). Its corps de ballet is particularly famous.

See M. Kahane, The Paris Opera (1988); S. Pitou, The Paris Opera: An Encyclopedia of Operas, Ballets, Composers, and Performers (1984) and The Paris Opera (1990); C. C. Mead, Charles Garnier's Paris Opera: Architectural Empathy and the Renaissance of French Classicism (1991).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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