During the 25 years since it was inaugurated, I avoided the Bastille Opera. Somehow, it seemed irrelevant, given the alternative of the sumptuous and acoustically exquisite Garnier Opera, the favorite of no less than Maria Callas. I never found the former’s icy metal and glass exterior particularly inviting, and that it launched with serious acoustic problems deterred me from it. How wrong I have been!
It took the magic of soprano Angela Gheorghiu to break the ice for me. I would rush through the gates of hell to hear her exquisite voice and talent, so I bit the bullet for the opening of Puccini’s “La Boheme” at the Bastille Opera last night, and I was delighted by the entire experience. That her performance as Mimi was ravishingly beautiful and wonderfully matched by tenor Piotr Beczala as Rodolfo was a great part of the pleasure. Daniel Oren’s conducting of the Paris National Opera Orchestra was also sublime.
The concert hall itself has so much to recommend it: lively and warm acoustics, superb viewing characteristics, comfortable seats with ample leg room, ease of entry and exit, and every amenity you might wish. The ambiance is not cozy, but there is a certain austere elegance, and altogether the experience is wonderfully comfortable and easy. I will return, happily.