The Paris Opera joins Haussmann Paris
An Haussmann area institution ever since the Opéra Garnier opened its doors in January 1875, the Opéra national de Paris joined the Haussmann Paris Committee in 2020. If it took a while for the Committee and Opera to join forces, their cultural and geographical proximity made it very natural for them to do so. Deputy General Director at Opéra National de Paris, Martin Ajdari explains why.
Why is the Paris Opera joining the Haussmann Paris Committee this year, more than 20 years after its creation?
Until now, the Paris Opera only had a pretty distant knowledge of what the Hausmann Paris Committee was doing. The meshing at the scale of a neighborhood, or the connections being made between different cultural or economical sectors weren’t as popular or significant as they are now. A few years ago, the Paris opera had been asked to provide free visits of the Palais Garnier for Haussmann Paris Committee members, but the partnership aspect of that approach wasn’t as clear as it is today, as those visits are one of the privileges the Opera offers its benefactors.
How does the Opéra Garnier fit in its neighborhood, from yesterday to nowadays? Based on its geographical proximity to the Grands Magasins, what connection would you establish between commerce and culture?
The Haussmann Baron suggested the location of the Palais Garnier to Emperor Napoléon III, who wanted Paris to have a new opera house. Haussmann was in charge of reconfiguring the French Capital’s urbanization and as early as 1853, train stations, large parks and tall buildings were a part of the ongoing urban modernization. A new neighborhood was born around the Saint-Lazare train station, entirely devoted to banking, commerce and leisure. The Grands Magasins were a good example of that, and were soon envied all around Europe. Although Charles Garnier wasn’t convinced by the spot chosen for his opera, we now see how much the Palais Garnier takes advantage of its central position, and how much it contributes to the area’s very identity.
The calling of an institution like the Paris Opera is to preserve and enhance the lyric and choreographic repertoire, to pass on its occupations and crafts, and offer the most people possible a taste of what’s being created inside its walls. The theater’s calling is artistic, but also largely social, with a tight bound to the area’s history and soul. Indeed, from the Opera to the Grands Magasins, the visitor discovers the range of different French savoir-faire.
How do you imagine the area evolving, in the foreseeable future, and what role do you want the Paris Opera to play in it?
The Paris Opera is a guarantor of a certain art of living, and of a lyric and choreographic art where theater, music, singing and dancing interact with each other, not to mention the craftsmen and craftswomen who build the stages and put together the costumes. Its role in the Haussmann neighborhood could be to display both tradition and innovation to the outside world. It must also contribute to its animation as a culturally active neighborhood. At last, we’re also very interested in everything that could make this urban area even more welcoming and friendly.
All of the Paris Opera’s shows are still suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Opera is offering amateurs certain recordings that can be accessed on operadeparis.fr, in the “L’Opéra chez soi” section.
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