Nov 14, 2007

Travel Guide: Opéra de Lyon

Today, another destination: my Opera House, not only because it stands 5 minutes from home, but also because I really like it (the building): l'Opéra de Lyon.

Fully renovated between 1989 and 1993 by French guru architect Jean Nouvel, the only things left from the previous building are the facade and the Grand Foyer (complete presentation of the building in pdf here - in French).

Façade, Photo Opéra de Lyon

The real treasure of this relatively small Opera House (spectators capacity: 1200) lies in the choice of materials (mostly wood) and the shapes and dimensions of the scene and various balconies (6 total), making the acoustics simply incredible. It's really nearly perfect, from almost everywhere. Plus, the room is actually suspended 20 meters above ground (all 1200 tons of it) to isolate it from the vibrations of the nearby métro and overground traffic. The whole building is actually quite mindblowing, but that's another story.

Online booking is of course available though I've never tried it (I live so close it's almost an insult to book online and not walk to the venues).

Since the acoustics is great, the only key question is whether you want to have a perfect view of the scene (and sub-titles) or not.
If you do, I recommend the 2-3 front rows of every balcony; of course, on the 6th balcony (level +8), you will see from up above little ants singing (the ant-effect starts with the 4th balcony and above) , whereas from the first and 2nd balconies, the view is perfect if you're seated in front of the scene.
The Opéra de Lyon is build as Italian theaters, meaning the view from the sides is not that good (although the seats are really placed at the right angle to get the best view possible), specially if your seat number is odd.

La Grande Salle, from the stage, Photo Opéra de Lyon

During the intermissions, since the Opera House is a non-smoking environment, you can exit via the main gates, where a staff member will give you a "Sortie provisoire"-ticket (temporary exit) you will have to give back when re-entering the gates.

Accès aux balcons, vue du hall d'entrée, my photograph

If you're thirsty and don't want to check the nearby brasseries and cafés, you can go to one of the two bars operating inside the Opera House; the first one is located in the Grand Foyer, on the same level as the Orchestra aka +3 (you just have to exit via the central gates in the back). I suggest you speed up if you want to try this one, because everybody goes there during the intermissions, and the queueing system is definitely not very efficient. So unless you're amongst the first people there, you may just end up receiving your glass of wine seconds before the intermission ends.

Le Grand Foyer, Photo Opéra de Lyon

The other bar is on the Amphitheater level (-1), and is way less crowded than the previous one. Therefore, you might get what you want after just a few minutes of waiting. Getting there is a bit tricky though (and most certainly explains the low attendance); you have to exit all the way down, same level as the main gates, and then turn right (or left) to find, in the far corner, the stairs down to the bar.

Escalators du hall d'entrée, my photograph

The Opera House also has a rather good restaurant operating on the +7 level (le Petit Foyer), called Les Muses which is definitely worth a try; I suggest forgetting about the After-Opera Menu (30€) though, and coming back on another evening to try the permanent menu.

Before the performance, during the intermissions and after, every staff member is supposed to have programs to sell. If they are out of them, they are usually very helpful and will try and find some for you. Tipping is not the common pratice, but is always appreciated, and might give you some extra-time to come back to your seat after the intermission, before they close the door on you (doors are actually closed from the inside during the performance, meaning if you're late, you won't come in).


The Opera House is in the heart of the city of Lyon, meaning it's almost impossible to park in a nearby underground parking (unless you book a space when buying your ticket), so I strongly suggest you walk or come via the métro (ligne A, arrêt Hôtel de Ville/Louis Pradel just in front of the Opera House).

Opéra de Lyon
1, place de la Comédie
Lyon, 1er arrondissement

Various photographs here, here and there.

The initial building, before the renovation process:

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