Library-museum of the Opera, Palais Garnier

The Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra National de Paris is a library and museum of the Paris Opera and is located in the 9th arrondissement at 8 rue Scribe, Paris, France. It is no longer managed by the Opera, but instead is part of the Music Department of the National Library of France (Bibliothèque nationale de France or BnF). The Paris Opera Library-Museum is open daily; an admission fee is charged.

The collections of the Library-Museum of the Opera (National Library of France) have kept the memory of the theater for three centuries. The gallery of the museum presents permanently, paintings, drawings, photographs and models of decors in volume. After the fall of the Empire, the premises were never completed: in the staircase that leads to the temporary exhibition hall, remains the massive apparatus of blocks of stones as it was in 1870. Access to the reading room, installed in the rotunda of the emperor, is reserved for researchers.

The first Academy of Opera created in 1669 included a copy office that made the scores for the musicians of the orchestra. The latter, kept in the office, constituted a real musical library, some of which was lost thereafter. On the other hand, the institution kept its archives in a separate department.

The librettist Charles Nuitter obtains the official creation of the library of the Opera by a decree of May 16, 1866. Appointed Archivist of the Opera, he helps to classify and catalog documents, but also to enrich the fund, including receiving books from the legal deposit.

In 1875, the service took the name of archives-library of the Opera. In 1882, Nuitter was allowed to use the pavilion of the emperor of the Palais Garnier to install the library and add a museum.

The archives, except the registers, go largely to the National Archives in 1932. The service then takes its current name of library-museum. In 1935, the meeting of the Paris Music Libraries was decided at the Meeting of National Libraries. The three musical collections, those of the National Library, those of the library-museum and those of the Conservatoire are placed under a single direction. At the creation of the music department in 1942, the library-museum of the Opera is attached to it.

Emperor’s Pavilion
The Library-Museum is housed in the Palais Garnier in the Rotonde de l’Empereur, a pavilion on the west side of the theatre, which was originally designed to be the private entrance for Emperor Napoleon III. Thus, the Emperor’s could directly enter in the building and avoid any assassination attempt. The library is located near the intersection of the rue Scribe with the rue Auber, streets which are named after the librettist Eugène Scribe and the composer Daniel Auber, both of whom had works performed by the Paris Opera.

After the Emperor’s death in 1873 and the proclamation of the French Third Republic in 1870, President Mac-Mahon refused to use this Pavilion as a private space for the head of state. Charles Nutters succeeded in compelling Charles Garnier to transform the pavilion into a space for the conservation of the Opera’s books and archives.

The archives and the library
From the time of the creation of the Paris Opera in 1669 until the middle of the 19th century there was no official entity in charge of the preservation and management of archival materials produced by the activities of the Opera and its associated theatre. The creation of an archives service and a library was integrated into the project entrusted to the architect Charles Garnier for the construction of a new opera house to replace the Opera’s former theatre, the Salle Le Peletier. Thus the current Paris Opera Library-Museum traces its origin to two former services of the Opera, the archives and the library, each created in 1866. At that time, the Opera director became an entrepreneur. Expenses exceeded the receipts, and the government needed a strong man to run the establishment but was afraid that the archives would be sold to generate money.

Around 1863 Charles Nuitter had begun cataloging the Opera’s archives, and on 15 May 1866, he became the official archivist. He also published several books on the history of the company. Théodore Lajarte was appointed librarian in 1873 and embarked on the systematic organization of the Opera’s scores and instrumental parts. In 1876 he first published his two-volume inventory of the library’s holdings covering the period from 1671 to 1876.

The archives and the library were soon merged, and in 1881 augmented with a museum open to the public. In 1899, Nuitter was succeeded by his assistant Charles Malherbe. At first, the Opera Library-Museum was attached to the State Secretariat of the Fine Arts (Secrétariat d’État aux Beaux-Arts), but in 1935, it became part of the National Library and in 1942 became a part of the newly established National Library’s Music Department.

The rooms of the library provide a comfortable environment for work and study, and the staff is knowledgeable and helpful. Much of the library is little changed from its original appearance in the 19th century. Access to the library may be difficult at times (the entrance is through the main foyer of the opera house), and it is advisable to call ahead to confirm the hours when it is open.

Today, the Library conserves around 600,000 documents related to the history of the Opéra and the Opéra-Comique, including about 100,000 books, 250,000 autograph letters, 16,000 scores, 30,000 libretti, 100,000 photographs, and 30,000 prints.

The museum
The modern museum has five rooms which display three centuries of the Paris Opera’s history through paintings, costumes, drawings of scenery, and scale models of set designs. Altogether, the museum conserves 8 500 objects.

At the top of the stairs which lead to the museum is a bronze by the sculptor Jacques Gestalder, which depicts the dancer Alexandre Kalioujny in mid-leap during a performance of Michel Fokine’s ballet Les danses polovtsiennes, which is based on the Polovtsian Dances of Borodin’s Prince Igor.

Visitors are also able to see shelves of books and scores, which are protected by grilles. These materials include fifteen thousand scores and thirty thousand librettos and are accessible to the public on days when the museum is not open for tours. The museum’s collections are too extensive to be displayed all at one time, as they consist of approximately 8,500 objects, including 2,500 models of sets, 500 set design drawings, and 3,000 pieces of costume jewelry.

The Library-Museum has organized more than 25 exhibitions since 1992, in collaboration with the BnF and others. Some of the items in the collection have also been displayed at the Musée d’Orsay.

The library-museum of the Opera keeps nearly 600 000 documents of which:

100,000 pounds
1,680 titles of periodicals and various printed matter
16,000 sheet music
30,000 booklets
10,000 programs
10,000 documentary files
250,000 autograph letters
11,000 orchestral materials
100,000 photographs
30,000 prints with some 25,000 sketches of costumes and sets, seventy linear meters of drawings, one hundred linear meters of posters
3,000 archival documents, including 2,378 administrative registers, created for the numerous shows, operas and ballets
acquisitions made over time.

It is home to the International Dance Archives, collected by Rolf de Maré and donated to the library in 1953.

The first catalog of the musical collections is that established by Théodore de Lajarte and entitled Musical Library of the Theater of the Opera (1878).

The many files allowing to know the collections are progressively integrated in the computerized catalogs of the BnF, and in particular the general catalog.

Palais Garnier
The Opera Garnier, or Palace Garnier, is a national theater and lyrical choreography vocation and a major element of heritage 9 th arrondissement of Paris and the capital. It is located Place de l’Opera, at the north end of the Avenue de l’Opera and at the crossroads of many roads. It is accessible by metro (Opera station), by the RER (line A, Auber station) and by bus. The building stands out as a monument particularly representative of eclectic architectureand historicist style of the second half of the xix th century. On a conception of the architect Charles Garnier retained following a competition, its construction, decided by Napoleon III as part of the transformations of Paris conducted by the prefect Haussmann and interrupted by the war of 1870, was resumed at the beginning of the Third Republic, after the destruction by fire of the opera Le Peletier in 1873. The building is inaugurated on January 5, 1875by President MacMahon in the third Republic.

Designed by the architect Charles Garnier in 1875, the Palais Garnier houses a prestigious auditorium and public spaces (grand foyer, rotunda of subscribers, salons), a library-museum as well as several rehearsal studios and workshops.

The “Italian style” theater, whose ceiling was painted by Marc Chagall in 1964, can accommodate 2054 spectators. With nearly 480,000 visitors a year, it is one of the most visited monuments in Paris. It is classified as a historical monument since 1923.

This opera was called “Paris Opera” until 1989, when the opening of the Opera Bastille, also opera in Paris, influenced its name. It is now designated by the only name of its architect: “Opera Garnier” or “Palais Garnier”. The two operas are now grouped together in the public industrial and commercial establishment “Opéra national de Paris”, a French public institution whose mission is to implement the performance of lyric or ballet performances, of high quality. artistic. The opera Garnier has been classified as a historical monument since October 16, 1923.