Opéra-National de Paris, France

The Opéra-National was a Parisian opera company that the French composer Adolphe Adam founded in 1847 to provide an alternative to the two primary French opera companies in Paris, the Opéra and the Opéra-Comique The goals of the new company were to “foster new compositional talent,” revive opéras comiques from an earlier period, and produce opera at a lower ticket price for a wider public

The company first performed in the relatively large Cirque Olympique on the Boulevard du Temple, in a working class district of Paris Financial difficulties and the turmoil of the 1848 Revolution caused the company to close in March of that year It was revived under a new director, Edmond Seveste, in 1851, when it moved to the Théâtre Historique, a short distance away on the Boulevard du Temple In 1852 the company was renamed Théâtre Lyrique and operated under that name until 1872

The Paris Opera is one of the world’s greatest opera and ballet houses Founded more than three centuries ago by Louis XIV, it possesses two theatres, the Palais Garnier (1875) and the Opéra Bastille (1989) Its mission is to preserve and develop our operatic and ballet heritage and it gives more than 350 performances per year Great composers such as Rameau, Gluck, Rossini, Verdi, Wagner, Gounod, Massenet, Poulenc and Messiaen all gave the first performances of their works here The ballet company, rich in historical tradition, performs all around the world Over the years it has played host to the greatest choreographers: George Balanchine, Serge Lifar, Rudolf Nureyev, Roland Petit, Maurice Béjart, and of course Pina Bausch

In 1791, during the French Revolution, many restrictions on theatres were removed New laws allowed essentially anyone to open a theatre Developers founded many new theatres, and it became increasingly difficult for any, including state sponsored theatres, to make money On 8 June 1806 Napoleon issued a decree that regulated the opening of new theatres No person could open a theatre without the approval of the emperor, based on a proposal prepared and submitted by the minister of the interior On 25 April 1807 he enacted a second, more highly developed decree that determined the genres permitted at each theatre Any theatre wanting to stage a work in the repertory of the state-supported Opéra, the Comédie-Française, or the Opéra-Comique had to pay a fee to the management of the appropriate company In addition, only the Opéra could perform particular historical and mythological ballets, thus burdening several companies, particularly the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin

The theatre opened on 15 November 1847 with a musical prologue (Les premiers pas ou Les deux génies) and the premiere of a 3-act opera Gastibelza The opera had a libretto by Adolphe d’Ennery and Eugène Cormon, and music by Aimé Maillart The prologue, a pastiche with music by Adam, Daniel Auber, Fromental Halévy, and Michele Carafa, and a libretto by Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaëz, was highly topical, with references to the new railway from Paris to Tours (a technical wonder of the time) and the Boulevard du Crime (nickname of the Boulevard du Temple, for the numerous melodramas about sensational crimes performed in many of the theatres located there)

In 1851, the Opéra-National was revived, and on 1 May Edmond Seveste was appointed director By the end of July he had taken a lease on the Théâtre Historique (72 Boulevard du Temple) Built by the dramatist Alexandre Dumas, the theatre had opened on 20 February 1847, closed on 20 December 1850, and remained unused The entrance to the theatre was a long, narrow vestibule, squeezed between two other buildings, with a facade only eight meters wide The auditorium, located in the back, was unusually wide (20 meters) and only 16 meters deep It had an audience capacity of 1500–1700 and was thought to have excellent acoustics for opera

The theatre required minimal renovations for its new purpose: new paint of white and gold, some furnishings, and a drop curtain painted by Auguste Rubé Four candelabra were fastened to the columns of the stage boxes and the busts of Corneille and Molière were replaced with ones of Gluck and Lully A grand piano surmounted with a bust of Weber was installed in the foyer Structural alterations were made to some ancillary spaces, including the conversion of stables used for horses in Dumas’s historical dramas, into the musicians’ green room

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