By Kris Vera
Paris, Residency at Reuters TV, London
Kinugawa Naoko traveled halfway around the world to see a performance at lâ€™OpÃ©ra Bastille but discovered all the tickets were sold out.
She couldnâ€™t buy tickets online to opera houseâ€™s next performance of Charles Debussyâ€™s PellÃ©as et MÃ©lisande. So the fifty-something-year-old Japanese tourist navigated the Metro with her Paris map and a splint around her left arm. The guide was printed with Japanese characters. She said the arm injury was from her travels.
After getting off the Bastille Metro stop, she walked around the fifteen-year-old opera building between Rue de Lyon and Rue de Charenton. She wore a light beige jacket, black slacks and white tennis shoes.
Eventually, she found the opera houseâ€™s Accueil (Information) desk. It was next to the ticket office. The ladies at the desk told Naoko the show was sold out.
â€œThey told me to come back forty-five minutes before the show,” Naoko said, â€œMaybe I can buy last-minute tickets.”
Naoko is willing to navigate through Paris with barely any French skills and an injured arm to get a ticket at the lâ€™OpÃ©ra Bastille. Local students, workers and residents lack Naokoâ€™s passion for the musical genre. Many of them do not plan on going through that much trouble to attend the classical music venue in the heart of their 11th arrondissement.
This reporter asked nineteen people walking around the Place de la Bastille and sitting on the steps of the lâ€™OpÃ©ra Bastille: â€œAvez-vous visiter lâ€™OpÃ©ra Bastille?” (Have you ever visited lâ€™OpÃ©ra Bastille?). A majority of the people surveyed answered: â€œNon, jamais.” (No, never.)
Naoko decided to visit the Place des Vosges after lâ€™Opera Bastille. She said she enjoys listening to opera music and watching the performances.
â€œI love operas, especially international ones,” Naoko said.
In the past few months, Naoko has traveled to Sweden, Norway and Denmark to watch operas. She said she couldnâ€™t get a ticket to an opera in Denmark. Instead, she attended August Bournonvilleâ€™s ballet, Abdallah, at the Royal Theater. She thought it was interesting the 1855 ballet took place in Basra, Iraq.
According to paris-tourism.com, lâ€™OpÃ©ra Bastille was built to appeal to the common people. Its inauguration was held during the French Revolution Bicentenary celebration on July 13, 1989. The first opera production was Hector Berliozâ€™s Les Troyens in 1990.
The main auditorium can seat 2700 audience members. The building was designed by Canadian-Uruguayan architect Carlos Otis. The stark building composed of white and grey tiles and glass cylinders stands-out from the circle of fast cars, trendy cafes and expensive boutiques around the â€œSpirit of Liberty” memorial.
lâ€™OpÃ©ra Bastille tickets cost anywhere between 9â‚¬ for nose-bleed seats to 130â‚¬ for front-row seats.
One commentary from paris-tourism.com said: â€œThe Bastille Opera was built with the mission to drag the people in and make them at home and make the lyric spectacle speak to them directly.”
This does not seem to be the case for the people inside the 11th arrondissement. At the FNAC Musique store on the Place de la Bastille, a worker at the desk for Accueil Classique (classical music information) said he has not been to the opera house.
â€œJe nâ€™aime pas opera,” he said. (I do not like opera).
Nguyen Lile works for lâ€™OpÃ©ra Bastille and she said she attended many shows at her work place and other opera houses.
â€œI have seen beaucoup, many,” Lile said, â€œMozart is good. I like Italian ones aussi (also).”
Fifty-year-old Lile was born in Vietnam and her family moved to France when she was a young girl. She said itâ€™s difficult to pick a favorite opera because sheâ€™s seen so many.
â€œI also like some modern operas,” Lile said, bobbing her head of red hair. She had white and black polka dot scarf knotted around her neck. â€œStages by Robert Wilson are good. I must like the whole show, including the scenery.”
She pointed out that each show is different, depending on the venue and vision of the show.
â€œThe Magic Flute is good, but next year it will be different,” Lile said. â€œDirectors are also different.”
On the other side of on the Place de la Bastille, Naoko named her favorite opera without hesitation.
â€œMy favorite is the Ring Cycle by Wagner,” Naoko said.
Naoko said she would return to lâ€™OpÃ©ra Bastille later that evening and try her luck at the last-minute tickets.
â€œWish me luck,” she said.