Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday 3/11/12: A Day at the Opera

We went to the Opera de Paris for the 2:30 p.m. matinee of La Veuve Joyeuse (“The Merry Widow”).  The Palais Garnier is everything you would hope for in an European opera house.  The entry hall is incredibly ornate, with statues and marble stairs everywhere. Being in one of the boxes felt like being on a wedding cake.  The view from our seats in the 4th tier straight down to the orchestra section was somewhat vertiginous.  On the plus side we had a fabulous view of the Chagall-painted ceiling.  On the minus side, our seats were obstructed, and we could see about half the stage, which is what you get for 25 euros per ticket.  Also, it was very warm, and I was thinking the place could use a whole house fan, although that would probably be too noisy for an opera house. Bathrooms are completely unremarkable and felt like they could have been in a gas station, except in one key respect, which is that they are co-ed.  You get a private stall with a real door to do your business but you wash your hands with the whole family.  
As for the opera, it was about as light as opera gets in my limited experience, and not all that different from musical theater.  It was a pretty cheezy story, more or less about a rich widow who is seduced by a politician because the government is out of money and they need her 20 million Francs to fund the government.  Then the politician legitimately falls in love with her, at which point she reveals she is in fact broke.  Or at least that is what I had gathered from listening to the opera in German and reading the French supertitles.  I didn’t bother to read all of the liner notes, even though I had them in English.  We didn't go to see this opera in particular; we went because it was the only opera showing at the Palais Garnier (which apparently usually shows ballet these days) while we were there.  Thanks in no small part to the heat, darkness, and our jet lag, we both dozed off here and there, but still very much enjoyed it.  There were several scenes that took place in Paris cabarets with showgirls, and in an only-in-Paris moment, there was indeed a showgirl wearing nothing but feathers, and she was not leaving anything to the imagination.  To clarify: this was the state-funded opera, during a matinee, with more than a few children in the audience.  

The Finagle

If you are interested in buying Paris opera tickets for 25 euros each, or ballet tickets which may be less, you can look at the calendar at for the time you will be in town.  

They have an English web site but not everything is fully translated; I suggest using Google Chrome's translate feature as needed, along with a separate window opened to google translate so you can copy and paste text as needed.  Also it is a good idea to navigate around the site so you know what you will be buying and have a good idea of the seats, etc. I suggest being online and preferably pre-registered with an account before the tickets are released.   

Be sure to check the web site as soon as you plan your trip, and then mark on your outlook calendar the day they will go on sale:  They release the tickets on one day at 9:00 a.m.  Paris time, which is midnight California time, for a block of dates lasting a few months.  In our case the showing we saw was sold out by the day after they went on sale (although it was not full when we were there, so there may be last-minute tickets available somehow, but I can't speak to that.).  At 9:00 a.m. when you click to buy tickets, you will be in a queue and your screen will be mostly white with a timer in the middle (in French).  You just need to wait until your time comes up; it took me 15 minutes.  Don't navigate away or you will lose your place in the queue.  Then when your time comes up you can go ahead and book your tickets by date, time, and take the first seats they give you in the price range you request, or else the next seats will be worse (as was my experience).

Also, note that the classic opera house is the Palais Garnier.  the Opera Bastille is a modern opera house built in the last 20 years, so it may not be the experience you had in mind.


  1. oooh- love that chagall ceiling!

  2. everyone's in tuxes and you're in a blazer and slacks very casual.

    1. I outgrew my tuxedo about 2 months after getting married. Actually there were a lot of people dressed down, even a few in t-shirts. I was worried about being underdressed but we were about average to above average.


Please post as if your mother would read it.