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Backstage Beast at the Opéra Bastille

I admit not being a fan of opera and therefore have never had an opportunity to attend a performance at the Opéra Bastille until now. Thanks to a visiting friend whose own friend was the lighting designer (Felice Ross) for the newest opera, Janácek’s “l’Affaire Makropoulos,” not only did we have center seats for opening night, but attended the parties back stage following the performance.

The 1989-inaugurated imposing theater designed by Carlos Ott is not well thought architecturally by the general populace of Paris (as it disturbs the esthetics of Place de la Bastille), and the acoustics have been described as disappointing. This was a chance to discover it in a different light.

Entering is not up the grand staircase as one might think, although the steps seem to serve hordes of loiterers who have nothing more to do than watch the antics of the area from a higher vantage point. That night there was a group of Sarkozy-masked demonstrators Friday night, for what purpose we couldn’t discern, but it was comical if nothing else.

I agree with others’ commentary that the interior has a slick, impersonal look of an airport lounge. It’s is clearly no contest to the Opéra Garnier, where no matter what performance you see, just being under its Chagall-painted domed ceiling on plush red velvet seats while basking in the glow of its gilded carvings is absolute heaven. Nonetheless, the theatre’s backstage facilities are extremely modern, allowing for nine times the volume of the stage and the ability to roll entire sets off and on intact. We saw this for ourselves along with an entertaining view of the massive King Kong backdrop to the performance — a furry, scary facade hiding a simply constructed framework for the molded plastic(?) parts.

The Makropoulos Affair was the strangest performance I’ve ever witnessed, even if brilliantly sung, directed, performed and executed.
It is “one of the most successful operatic productions of recent years thoroughly studied by an excellent cast, imaginatively and fluidly conceived by Frank Corsaro” — Karel Capek’s drama of a 16th-century girl who lives into the 20th century by virtue of a magic potion. Still, as Angela Denoke changes clothing on stage many times, revealing her breasts on a few occasions, and as the cleverly designed stage sets made up of bathroom scenes to include toilets, urinals, bath tub and wash basins roll on and off stage, one ponders the madness behind the creativity.

To learn more and to book your tickets, visit


I have good news for night owls — beginning December of this year, the Métro will be running till 2:15 a.m. on Friday nights! Trains run from approximately 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. every day of the year on every station of the network. The last train, called the “balai” (broom), because it “sweeps” up remaining pass

engers, arrives at the terminal station at 1:15 a.m. Since December 2006, the Métro has stayed open one hour later on Saturday nights and nights before a holiday, thus ending service at 2:15 a.m. As of December 2007, the Metro will also stay open an hour later on Friday nights. During special events, such as the New Year’s Eve, the Fête de la Musique or La Nuit Blanche, the network is partially opened during the whole night. These exceptional openings affect only main stations of main lines on manual lines (1, 2, 4, 6), some stations on RER lines, and on all stations of automatic lines (currently line 14, and line 1 by 2010).

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. We’ve had an amazing response to the Living and Investing in France Conference in San Francisco July 7 and 8, so don’t delay — sign up now! For more information, visit Living and Investing in France Conference San Francisco at /frenchproperty/conference or email Schuyler Hoffman, [email protected]

P.P.S. Parler Parlor is closed tomorrow evening for Labor Day and May 8th for Victory Day. We will meet again this Saturday at La Croissanterie at 10:30 a.m. with the plan to be in our new Saturday location the week after. See you then!


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