Entertainment in Paris

Paris, as one of the hubs of European culture, is rich in opportunities to experience almost anything in the performing arts that you could ask for.

Opera

Palais Garnier opera building in ParisThe Palais Garnier, located at the Place de l'Opéra, is the premier theatrical venue in all of Paris, and the largest in the world, capable of holding 450 performers onstage at the same time.

Built in 1860 by architect Charles Garnier, it was constructed over a subterranean river, and an artificial lake that still exists today. That feature is central to the story "Phantom of the Opera", by Gerard Leroux.

The Opera building is a dazzling edifice of staircases, gilt, red velvet and chandeliers. Even if you are unable to get tickets for an opera or ballet performance, go simply for the visual pleasure of a walk through the lobby!

The Opéra Bastille is housed in a much newer building, erected in 1989 on the bicentennial of the storming of the Bastille prison.

The new building, which features glass everywhere, was positioned to bridge the physical and cultural gap between the modern suburb going up next to it, and the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.

The Metro exit was placed in the hall, where the shopping area is, with an eye to drawing people into the Opera itself.

Theatre

Live theatre in France has an interesting history. Little of it survives from prior to 1600, since it was mostly "fluff" pieces written to butter up the aristocracy.

Alexandre Hardy, who emerged on the national stage around 1597, was one of the first professional French dramatists.

He wrote a wealth of plays utilizing the five-act form, poetic dialogue and the chorus from early Greek and Roman times. Thirty-four of his works survive, revered not for their lasting greatness, but for his laying the groundwork of an art that flourishes today.

Visitors to Paris will need to obtain a list of theatres beforehand, to be assured tickets to their choice of performances. You can get a preview via the Internet at Theatre Online (in French), a good resource to see the kind of things currently playing in Paris, or you can buy the weekly magazine Pariscope (with a section in English).

If you want to be assured of tickets, you should try to buy them well in advance, because shows often sell out. You can go directly to the venue to purchase tickets, visit the FNAC bookstore or the Virgin Megastore on the Champs-Elysées, or ask your travel agent or hotel for help.

However, if you are willing to take a chance, you could go to the Kiosques Théâtre to get half-price tickets for several same-day performances.

Music

Performances of classical music can be found at the many opera houses and theatres in Paris, including the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Chatelet Theatre, the Palais Garnier at the Place de l'Opéra, and the Opéra Bastille.

Other theatres offering classical works are: La Salle Pleyel, le Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, and the aforementioned Chatelet Théâtre Musical de Paris.

Additional musical venues are:

  • La Cité de la Musique, whose unique seating can be reconfigured to suit any type of musical or dance performance;
  • Le Regard du Cygne, which hosts innovative performance in dance and movement by young companies, and offers student and senior discounts, a half hour before performance time;
  • Théâtre de la Ville which features theatre, dance, and a broad range of music (they also offer substantial youth and student discounts for same-day tickets).

Those with more eclectic tastes in music could visit ConcertAndCo for a marvellous and current overview (in French) of who is playing what, and where to find them while in Paris.