A new season at the Opéra Garnier!

Cover of the book "Opéra mon Amour" Author Jérôme Clochard (Jérô) Photo Franck Stromme

On this first day of the school year, some of us are going to school, and others to the Opera... This may be the occasion to remember a few passages from this magical place! We thank Adrien Perreau for his article : "The Paris Opera is a tradition and a heritage. ... . It is my heritage and my language", says Aurélie Dupont, director of dance at the Paris Opera.

An ancient tradition: after having excelled as a dancer and having given pomp and prestige to the court ballet, Louis XIV decided to stop dancing in 1670. At the same time, anxious to make the noble style a true art of the stage, he created the Royal Academy of Dance by letters patent in March 1661. Jean-Batiste Lully was appointed to head the Royal Academy of Music for life in March 1672, and he called on Pierre Beauchamp to regulate the danced entertainment for his lyrical tragedies: the Paris Opera and its Ballet were thus created. According to Hugues Gall (director of the Opéra national de Paris from 1995 to 2004), it was the oldest and most turbulent opera house in the world. Perhaps the term 'turbulent' stems from the legendary and unalterable pride of the House's professionals?

In Paris, it was fashionable to dress in evening gowns and suits, or sometimes even in dinner jackets. Rolf Liebermann, (composer, great director from 1973 to 1980) is credited with having said that he accepted "jeans and trainers". Since then, there is no longer any real dress code at the Opéra national de Paris. Note that Rolf Liebermann was also the first 'foreigner' since Lully to conduct the Paris Opéra! The annual Corps de Ballet competition is a tradition to which the dancers remain attached. But since 2014 there has been no more tinkling of the jury bell to call the next candidate. "That sound was a horror. It followed us throughout our years at the Ballet School and we found it again once we joined the company", comments Amandine Albisson, star of the Paris Opera Ballet. A tradition for the Petits rats de l'Opéra Garnier: every year in December, the 134 boys and girls of the famous dance school perform on stage in a show called "Demonstrations" to show the public and their friends and family how much progress they have made. When the curtain comes down, the little rats rush to the artist whose patronage they wish to see as "little mother" or "little father". For more than three hundred years, an unbroken chain of traditions and gestures, handed down from body to body by thousands of performers, teachers and choreographers, has safeguarded and perpetuated the French style in this transmission.

How can we talk about these traditions without mentioning Russia?

Marius Petipa, who was a star dancer in Paris, was invited to Saint Petersburg in 1847, where he stayed for nearly sixty years. Marius Petipa founded the Russian school of ballet there, which became immensely famous. Rudolf Nureyev later brilliantly illustrated Petipa's legacy: "Dance is the meeting of three emotions and their transcendence: the emotion of the tamed body that frees itself and joins the soul, the emotion of the gesture that is transformed into poetry, the emotion of the pace that brings the performer out of his physicality to become the expression of the idea. How can we not mention the Ballets Russes and Serge Diaghilev? Initiator in 1907 of five great historic Russian concerts at the Palais Garnier, it was in 1909 at the Théâtre du Châtelet that the troupe of artists he had formed under the name of Ballets Russes performed for the first time. In each performance, through the fusion of dance, music and décor, he created true masterpieces of total art. "When I produce a ballet, I do not lose sight of any of these three factors for a moment" (Serge Diaghilev).

The Paris Opera has had 13 successive halls over more than 300 years, before the fourteenth at the Bastille, while preserving its traditions! Adrien Perreau, Head of Heritage at the Palais Garnier

Sources: l'Express, la BNF, France archives, Telerama, la Revue des Deux Mondes, Culturebox, Paris Match, Larousse, ...