- March 13, 2023
- Parisian theatre
- Niamh Daly
Discover the history of the Opéra Comique in Paris and the 5 operas to see there in 2023!
Paris, the city of love, art, and culture, has long been renowned for its vibrant theatre scene. Yet, among the many esteemed establishments in the city, there are few with a history quite as thrilling and as the Opéra Comique. Dating back to the 18th century, this iconic venue has been the site of some of the most memorable performances in the history of French theatre, and you’ll be very happy to know that we offer a selection of fantastic operatic performances at this theatrical icon throughout the year! Keep reading for the low-down on what you can expect to find within its historic walls – but first, here’s a little insight into the venue’s tumultuous past…
Brief history about the Opéra Comique
Nestled within the romantic streets of Paris’ 2nd arrondissement lies the Opéra Comique, a venue that is shrouded in mystique and harbors a storied past, and has captured the hearts of music and opera lovers for centuries.
One of its most fabled tales involves legendary composer Georges Bizet, who premiered his masterpiece Carmen within the walls of this esteemed establishment. Seasoned theatre-goers and first-timers alike will recognize its most prominent song, Habanera, which is generally considered to be the most famous opera arias of all time. Give it a listen – sound familiar?
Despite heavy criticism from spectators for a number of performances, the Opéra Comique persisted, rising from the ashes of a failed premiere to become an institution of cultural significance. Over the years, it has become known for its daring and provocative productions, causing a stir among the city's elite with its boundary-pushing themes and performances.
There's no denying that the Opéra Comique continues to hold a special place in the hearts of those who are drawn to its mysterious allure. Its story is one of triumph and tragedy, of scandal and celebration – a tale that continues to unfold with each passing year. Why not witness history in the flesh by watching one of the productions this creative hub has to offer this year? Read on to find out what shows are on the horizon!
Did you know that ‘comic operas’ aren’t supposed to make you laugh? Comic opera, from which the Opéra Comique takes its name, is a subgenre of opera that incorporates both spoken dialogue and song, whereas a typical opera is entirely sung. Now you know!
Bizet’s Carmen at the Opéra Comique
An opera playing from April 24th to May 4th, 2023 at Opéra Comique in Paris
That’s right – almost 150 years on, the Opéra Comique continues to put on performances of its most eminent show, in the very venue where it first premiered! The opera, based on the novella of the same name by Prosper Mérimée, tells the story of a passionate love affair between the soldier Don José and the fiery Carmen, ultimately leading to a romantic tragedy that has seized its audiences for decades.
But did you know that the initial reception to the opera was anything but a triumph? It's rumored that the performance was not well-received by its spectators, with many finding the story too scandalous and the music too daring, leaving Bizet heartbroken and defeated. Sadly, Bizet did not live to see Carmen become the wildly popular and beloved work it is today – he died suddenly after its 33rd performance at the young age of 36.
The Opéra Comique offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness this iconic work in the very setting where it was born. From the stunning architecture to the acoustics that have been specially honed over centuries of performances, the Opéra Comique provides the ideal backdrop for a truly unforgettable night of theatre.
If you’d like to experience the passion, drama, and unforgettable music of Bizet's Carmen at the Opéra Comique, book your tickets now for a night you won't forget!
Breaking the Waves at the Opéra Comique
An opera playing from May 28th to May 31st, 2023 at Opéra Comique in Paris
For a contemporary opera that revolutionizes the genre, Breaking the Waves at the Opéra Comique is the perfect opportunity to witness a dramatic performance that both pays tribute to and transforms its original stimulus.
Based on the acclaimed 1996 film of the same name by Lars von Trier, Breaking the Waves tells the story of Bess, a young woman living in a strict Calvinist community in rural Scotland. Tragedy strikes when her husband, Jan, becomes paralyzed in an offshore work accident, yet Bess is convinced that God has given her a divine mission to save him, resulting in a tortured story of sacrifice, faith, and love, that will pull on the heartstrings of any spectator.
This modern masterpiece was composed by Missy Mazzoli, an American composer recognized for her eclectic style, alongside a captivating libretto by Royce Vavrek. The hauntingly sublime music and emotional storyline interact in a way that is at once both beautiful and intoxicating, gripping its audience with its innovative portrayal of faith, sexuality, and how these concepts interact, receiving critical acclaim for its rawness and ability to capture the essence of the original film. Breaking the Waves premiered in 2016 at the Opera Philadelphia, and has since been performed in various locations around the world, including Paris throughout this spring.
To witness an emotionally charged performance of a newly emergent classic, don't miss your chance to see this unforgettable work live on stage – <b>book your tickets now to experience history in the making!
The Bourgeois Gentleman at the Opéra Comique
A comedy-ballet playing from March 16th to March 26th, 2023 at Opéra Comique in Paris
If a light-spirited comedy-ballet is what you’re after, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the classic rip-roaring comedy, The Bourgeois Gentleman! Injected heavily with irony, this rib-tickling riot of class commentary continues to make audiences laugh over 350 years on from its original premiere at the Palace of Versailles.
The Bourgeois Gentleman aptly satirizes the aspirations of the middle class to rise above their social standing and attain the status of nobility. The brainchild of three incredibly talented figures in the world of theatre - featuring musical direction from Jean-Baptiste Lully, a libretto by Molière, and choreography by Pierre Beauchamp – this play tells the story of Monsieur Jourdain, a wealthy but painfully unsophisticated tradesman who aspires to become a gentleman in order to win the heart of a noblewoman. However, his awkwardness and absence of decorum routinely result in unfortunate mishaps, landing him in a procession of sticky situations…!
Despite the play’s masterful manipulation of comedy, the art of the production is not lost in this humorous marvel. The score, composed by Lully, features lively dance sequences and catchy tunes that add to the play's comedic effect, whilst simultaneously mesmerizing its spectators. The Bourgeois Gentleman is an artful balance between charm and humor, and elegance and culture, resulting in a masterpiece of the 17th century comical aesthetic. If we haven’t convinced you, just listen to Louis XIV, who reportedly commented: “I am completely satisfied with your comedy – this is a true comedy with cunning jokes; continue to work in this same genre, and you will bring pleasure to my life”. Couldn’t we all use a little more pleasure in our lives?
The mind of Molière, the king of classic comedy, shines through in the witty lyricism of this timeless piece. See it unfold before your very eyes at the Opéra Comique this year!
Zémire and Azor at the Opéra Comique
An opera playing from June 23rd to July 1st, 2023 at Opéra Comique in Paris
A stunning reconceptualization of the classic tale of Beauty and the Beast takes the stage of the Opéra Comique this year – enter Zémire and Azor, a riveting opera that first premiered in Paris in 1771 and became an immediate success.
As created by French composer André Grétry, with a libretto by Jean-François Marmontel, Zémire and Azor tells the story of Sander, a man who indulges in an unattended feast within an eerily empty palace, then plucks a rose from its garden, much to the anger of the palace’s resident beast. Fearing for his life, Sander promises to give the beast the hand in marriage of one of his daughters, and Zémire, the youngest and most beautiful daughter, agrees to go. As the narrative progresses, Zémire begins to see beyond his fearsome appearance, and gradually falls in love with the individual within. A tale of passion and family burns bright on-stage, under the meticulous direction of an incredibly talented team.
The Opéra Comique has a long history of performing this opera, with the first production taking place in 1776, just five years after its premiere. Where better to experience the beauty and grace of this classic operatic tale? Don’t wait – book your tickets now!
L’Inondation (The Flood) at the Opéra Comique
An opera playing from February 27th to March 5th, 2023 at Opéra Comique in Paris
St. Petersburg, Russia. A couple, anguished by their infertility, decide to adopt a girl to remedy their marriage. The teenager unexpectedly whisks her way into their home and hearts, resulting in a captivating story that is an unforgettable triumph of sound and spectacle.
The Opéra Comique welcomes back yet another production whose premiere took place within upon its stage! The curtain draws back to reveal a cross-section of a three-story building, pulsing with movement and laying bare the lives of those who live within. Joël Pommerat wrote his first original libretto in 2019, as requested by the venue, and the rest is history. This opera in two acts is a contemporary adaptation of the eponymous short story by Yevgeny Zamyatin, originally published in 1929, and includes scores as composed by Francesco Filidei, a stellar musician who does well to honor the operatic legacy of Italy, his homeland.his native Italy. However, this is not to say that The Flood is typical of its genre – rather, in every implicit decision made by its talented team, it seeks to deconstruct then reimagine operatic hallmarks and trends in a way that is completely innovative and refreshing.
This gripping drama is accompanied by 11 woodwinds, 7 brass, an accordion, strings, and an incredibly multi-faceted ensemble of 5 percussionists. To reproduce the opera’s diegetic sounds and movements, they use an impressive number of unconventional objects: glasses of water, sandpaper, bubble wrap, and a squeaky toy are all used artfully to reproduce the sounds of a taser, pebbles, and a bicycle pump to name just a few.
The Flood is a veritable tour de force that leaves its audience awash with emotion. Don’t miss out –> book your tickets now!
Don’t miss out on the shows that the Opéra Comique has to offer!
These shows, composed by some of the greatest musical minds in history, have had a lasting impact on the world of opera and theatre. Attending a performance at the Opéra Comique means being part of a long and storied tradition of artistic excellence, and experiencing the very best that the world of performing arts has to offer. These shows won’t be performed forever – seize the opportunity to behold one of these masterpieces with your own eyes!
Theatre in Paris offers a fantastic selection of tickets online for theatres and venues across Paris. Why not elevate your performance with a dose of luxury? At checkout, choose our Premium package to experience any one of these operatic masterpieces at the height of comfort, with a glass of champagne, Optima seating, and more exclusive add-ons!
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