Located in a lovely wide square with decorative fountains (Place Louis Pradel) adjacent to Place des Terreaux and adjoining the Town Hall, Jean Novel’s Opera House serves as a wonderful resource and attraction even when nothing is on there. Its bar and café in the arcade in front of the main entrance is a favorite watering hole for the Lyonais.
The façade of the original 1831 theatre with 8 of the 9 statues on the pediment preserved, is crowned by an enormous glass barrel-vault serving as the roof and encompassing a restaurant and rehearsal rooms. Nouvel’s renovation was started in 1985 and only completed in 1993, and the floridly painted foyer is out of sync with the auditorium itself that is utterly Spartan. The seats are thin and perforated so as not to absorb the sound, as is the case in Wagner’s opera house in Bayreuth. There are no fewer than 6 balconies above the stalls and grand circle, fortunately served by an elevator. Each balcony has only one-to-three rows of seats, so that the whole place is virtually a vast cavern into which the music can pour without being muffled. Other than during a performance, the Opera may be visited on Saturday mornings by purchasing a ticket from the Tourist Office at Place Bellecoeur. For the same price, we managed to purchase a 6th-Balcony ticket for an event in which we had little interest --- a performance by a visiting Japanese dance company---- but there was no interval and we were unable to see as much of this strange theatre as we would have wished. La Scala and the Bolshoi it certainly is not, but it is an accurate expression of this resourceful city that throughout its history has learned to make the best of it.
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