| Parisians are almost
as passionate about their culture as they are about their food and
restaurants. The French government takes art and culture very seriously,
pumping money into the arts, supporting French cinema against Hollywood
imports, and embarking on grandiose grands travaux, such as the
Nationale de France, Quai François-Mauriac (telephone
number: (01) 5379 5959 or (01) 5379 5379). The Opéra
Bastille opened in 1989, on the bicentennial of Bastille
Day, although the merit of its architecture and the quality
of its productions have recently been questioned.
Major venues, in addition to those detailed below, include the Palais
des Congrès, 2 place de la Porte-Maillot, 17th (telephone
number: (01) 4068 0005), for ballet, opera and pop-star performances,
and the enormous Palais
des Sports, Porte de Versailles, 15th (telephone number: (01)
Tickets for concerts of all kinds can be purchased from the following:
FNAC Forum des
Halles, 1 rue Pierre Lescot, 1st (telephone number: (01) 4041
FNAC Musique, 2 rue Charenton, 12th (telephone
number: (01) 4342 0404). Carrousel
du Louvre, 99 rue de Rivoli, 1st (telephone number: (01) 4316
4747), located directly beneath the Louvre
Megastore, 52 avenue des Champs-Elysées, 8th (telephone
number: (01) 4953 5000). However long the queue, ticket touts at
the Opéra and concert venues are to be avoided due to high
prices and the prevalence of worthless fake tickets.
Listings are to be found in Pariscope
and L’Officiel des Spectacles. Classical
concerts are listed in the monthly Le Monde de la Musique.
Paris Opéra (telephone number: (08) 9289 9090 performs
ballet and opera at the Opéra Garnier, place
de l’Opéra, 9th and Opéra Bastille, place de
la Bastille, 12th and tickets cost €30-110.
Large opera productions are also performed at the Châtelet
Théâtre Musical de Paris, 1 place du Châtelet,
1st (telephone number: (01) 4028 2840).
The varied programme at the Cité
de la Musique, at La Villette, is strongest in contemporary
music and home to the internationally renowned Ensemble
Intercontemporain. It also features ancient music, jazz, chansons
and world music. The Cité has two important
venues, the Conservatoire National de Musique,
209 avenue Jean Jaurès, 19th (telephone number: (01) 4040
4545), and the Salle des Concerts, 221 avenue Jean
Jaurès, 19th (telephone number: (01) 4484 4484). Big names
in French contemporary and experimental classical music to listen
out for are Pierre Boulez, Pascal Dusapin and Luc Ferrarie.
A series of orchestras, including the Orchestre
Lamoureux and Orchestre
de Paris are based at Salle Pleyel, 252 rue du Faubourg-St-Honoré,
8th (telephone number: (01) 4561 5300).
Other prestigious venues for classical music include the Salle
Gaveau, 45 rue de la Boétie, 8th (telephone number:
(01) 4953 0507), Théâtre
des Champs-Elysées, 15 avenue Montaigne, 8th (telephone
number: (01) 4952 5050), and the Théâtre
Musical de Paris, 1 place du Châtelet, 1st (teephone number:
(01) 4028 2840).
Française, 1 place de Colette, 1st (telephone number:
(01) 4458 1515), is the national theatre, renowned for its production
of the classics. Théâtre National de la Colline,
15 rue Malte-Brun, 20th (telephone number: (01) 4462 5252), plays
contemporary French drama. New talent is sought out at fringe theatres,
such as Guichet-Montparnasse, 15 rue du Maine,
14th (telephone number: (01) 4327 8861). Peter Brook is based at
the Bouffes du Nord, 37 bis boulevard de la Chapelle, 10th (telephone
number: (01) 4607 3450). The
Odéon, 1 place de l'Odéon, 6th (telephone number:
(01) 4485 4000), hosts foreign-language productions.
The main ballet venue is at the Opéra Garnier
(see Music). Major productions are also held at the prestigious
de la Ville, 2 place du Châtelet, 4th (telephone number:
(01) 4274 2277) where the works of high-profile choreographers,
such as Karine Saporta, Maguy Marin
and Pina Bausch, are frequently shown. The theatre
has another venue, Les Abbesses, with the same
contact details at 31 rue des Abbesses, 18th. The Théâtre
Musical de Paris (see Music) hosts ballet companies from oerseas.
The first public film screening ever, ‘Le train entrant
en gare' was shown by the Lumière
brothers in Paris in 1895. Today, Paris remains an important cinema
capital, in any given week, over 300 films are shown.
There is no English-language cinema in Paris, however, most movies
are shown in the original language, with French subtitles. UGC
have a major presence in Paris with the city’s largest (18-screen)
cinema, UGC Ciné Cité Bercy, 2 cours St-Emilion, 12th
(telephone number : (08) 9270 0000).
There is also a 16-screen UGC Ciné Cité Les
Halles, place de la Rotonde, Nouveau Forum des Halles,
1st (telephone number: (08) 9270 0000). Although the multi-screen
UGCs and Gaumonts are on the increase (many based on the Champs-Elysées
and in Montparnasse), Paris is still teeming with small arthouse
cinemas, clustered in the 5th and 6th arrondissements. Among these
are Le Champo,
51 rue des Ecoles, 5th (telephone number: (01) 4354 5160), near
the Sorbonne, and Racine Odéon, 6 rue de
l’Ecole-de-Médecine, 6th (telephone number: (0892)
68 9325), known for its all-night showings. Some cinemas are worth
seeing just for their decor, one such is kitsch Le
Grand Rex, 1 boulevard Poisssonnière, 2nd (telephone
number: (01) 4508 9358). Recent movies Amelie or
Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain (2001),
directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (of Delicatessen (1991) fame) and
Moulin Rouge (2001), directed by Baz Luhrmann,
were both set in Montmartre and took box offices worldwide by storm.
Paris offers plenty of choice and a wide variety
of lively festivals. Among these are the free, city-wide Fête
de la Musique (21nd June), the Festival du Film de Paris
(early April) and the Festival
d’Automne (September to December) contemporary dance event.
Free concerts are held within the city’s churches during the
Festival d’Art Sacré, in the weeks
The written word and words uttered during long café discussions
on the Left Bank have done much to create the mythical Paris that
tourists and visitors still hunt out today.
Hugo’s historical novel The Hunchback of
Notre-Dame (1831) is set in 15th-century Paris and his
Les Misérables (1862) in the poverty-stricken
A Moveable Feast (1964) depicts the bohemian Paris
of the inter-war years.
Henry Miller’s Tropic
of Cancer (1934) and Tropic of Capricorn
(1939) portray a sexier city.
A more reflective image is portrayed in Anais Nin’s
interlocking works. For Nin, Paris allows the development of her
sexuality and (perceived as equally sinful) creativity.
George Orwell describes the poverty of the 1920s
in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933).
Traces of literary heroes and heroines and their fictional creations
are sought throughout Paris, in the lingering smoke of the Café
de Flore and Les Deux Magots, boulevard
St-Germain, 6th, where the existential discussions between Jean-Paul
Sartre, Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir
used to rage.
James Joyce used to drink
at chic Le Fouquet’s, 99 avenue des Champs-Elysées,
8th, while such luminaries as Jean Jacques Rousseau,
Voltaire and Oscar Wilde frequented
Le Procope, 13 rue de l’Ancienne-Comédie,
6th. Ernest Hemingway dined at the La Cloiserie
des Lilas, 171 boulevard du Montparnasse, 6th, still popular
with the publishing world, and Samuel Beckett’s
favourite haunt was Le Select, 99 boulevard du
The place of literary pilgrimage par excellence is the Père
Lachaise Cemetery, presumed resting place of medieval lovers
Abélard and Héloïse. They lie
in good company, along with the great 17th-century playwright Molière
and fable-teller La Fontaine, Oscar Wilde, Sarah
Bernhardt, Champollion, Delacroix, Ingres, Géricault, Bizet,
Balzac, Proust, Colette and Edith Piaf. Contemporary poet,
singer and icon Jim Morrison was famously buried
here in 1971.
Heather Reyes’ Zade
(2004) is set in Père Lachaise and swirls around the ghosts
of Jim Morrison, Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde.