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Paris Opera Ballet

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Paris Opera Ballet

Paris Opera Ballet
General information
Name Paris Opera Ballet
Local name Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris
Previous names
  • Académie d'Opéra
  • Académie Royale de Musique
  • Académie Impériale de Musique
  • Théâtre National de l'Opéra
Year founded 1669
Principal venue Palais Garnier,
Place de l'Opéra,
Paris, 9th arrondissement,
Senior staff
Administrator Olivier Aldeano
Director Benjamin Millepied
Artistic staff
Ballet Master in Chief
  • Clotilde Vayer (Present)
  • Patrice Bart (until 2011)
  • Laurent Hilaire (2011 - 2014)
Associated schools Paris Opera Ballet School[1]
Formation Étoile
Premier Danseur

The Paris Opera Ballet (French: Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris) is the oldest national ballet company in the world, and many European and international ballet companies can trace their origins to it. It has always been an integral part of the Paris Opera, which was founded in 1669 as the Académie d'Opéra (Academy of Opera), although theatrical dance did not become an important component of the Paris Opera until 1673, after it was renamed the Académie Royale de Musique (Royal Academy of Music) and placed under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully.[1][2] The Paris Opera has had many different official names during its long history but since 1994 has been called the Opéra National de Paris (Paris National Opera). The company presents ballet primarily at the Palais Garnier.[3]


  • History 1
    • Background 1.1
    • Founding and early history 1.2
    • Later history 1.3
  • Choreographers 2
  • Dancers 3
    • Étoiles 3.1
    • Notable dancers 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6



The Paris Opera Ballet had its origins in the earlier dance institutions, traditions and practices of the court of Louis XIV. Of particular importance were the series of comédies-ballets created by Molière with, among others, the choreographers and composers Pierre Beauchamps and Jean-Baptiste Lully. The first was Les Fâcheux in 1661 and the most important, Le Bourgeois gentilhomme in 1670.[4] Many of these were also performed by Molière's company at the public Théâtre du Palais-Royal in Paris, which was later to become the first permanent home of the opera company and the opera ballet.

Also in 1661, Louis XIV had founded the Académie Royale de Danse (Royal Academy of Dance) in an effort "to improve the quality of dance instruction for court entertainments". Members of the academy, as well as the dance teachers who were certified by it, and their students, participated in the creation of the ballets for the court, Molière, and later the opera.[5] In 1680, Beauchamps became the chancellor (director) of the Académie Royale de Danse.[2][6] Although the Académie Royale de Danse and the Opera were closely connected, the two institutions remained separate, and the former disappeared with the fall of the monarchy in 1789.[7]

Founding and early history

On 28 June 1669, Louis XIV granted a privilege to the poet Pierre Perrin giving him a monopoly to form a separate academy for the performance of opera in French. The first production of the company founded by Perrin, the Académie d'Opéra (Academy of Opera),[8] was Pomone, which was first performed on 3 March 1671 at the Jeu de Paume de la Bouteille and included ballets choreographed by Anthoine des Brosses.[9]

In 1672, Lully purchased Perrin's privilege and also obtained new letters patent limiting the use of musicians and dancers by other French companies. With Anthoine des Brosses and Lully as choreographers and Carlo Vigarani as stage designer, Lully's company, now called the Académie Royale de Musique, produced Lully's first opera, Les fêtes de l'Amour et de Bacchus (a pastorale) in November 1672 at the Jeu de Paume de Béquet.[10] This work consisted primarily of excerpts from Lully's prior court ballets connected with new entrées choreographed by des Brosses.[11] A crucial difference, however, from the previous court ballets was that the members of the court no longer participated, and all of the dancers were professionals.[12]

Lully's next production, Cadmus et Hermione (27 April 1673), the first tragédie lyrique (with a libretto by Philippe Quinault), also premiered at the Jeu de Paume de Béquet and was choreographed by Anthoine des Brosses.[11] Pierre Beauchamps, who had been working with Molière at the Palais-Royal, joined Lully's company in June 1673 (not long after Molière's death), when Lully took over the Palais-Royal theatre, forcing Molière's troupe to move to the Théâtre Guénégaud. Lully and Quinault continued to collaborate on a series of successful productions, in the process creating a new genre of French opera in which dance interludes played an important part in the musical drama.[13] The ballets for these works were created by Beauchamps, des Brosses, and d'Olivet. Jean-Baptiste Dubos explains that Beauchamps and des Brosses were responsible for the ballets ordinaires, while d'Olivet specialized in ballet-pantomime:

Lully paid such great attention to the ballets mentioned here that he engaged for their choreography a 'maître de danse particulier' named d'Olivet. It was he, and not des Brosses or Beauchamps, whom Lully engaged for the 'ballets ordinaires', who composed the ballets of the infernal scenes of Psyché and Alceste. It was also d'Olivet who composed the ballet of the old men in Thesée, of the baneful dreams in Atys, and of the tremblers in Isis. This last was composed solely of pantomimic gestures by men seized with cold, and he did not introduce a single usual dance step into it.[14]

Initially the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet were all male. Mademoiselle de la Fontaine (1665–1738) became the first professional ballerina when she danced in the premiere of Lully's ballet Le Triomphe de l'Amour on 21 January 1681.[15] Pierre Beauchamps continued to collaborate with Lully at the Paris Opera until Lully's death in 1687.[6]

Later history

The 18th century saw the creation of an associated school, now referred to as the Paris Opera Ballet School (Les petits riens in 1778 on Mozart's music. Maximilien Gardel was ballet master from 1781, with his brother Pierre Gardel taking over after Maximilien's death in 1787. Pierre Gardel survived the Revolution creating ballets such as La Marseillaise and Offrande à la Liberté.[1] He remained the ballet master until 1820 and continued to work up to 1829.[16]

In 1820, Pierre Gardel was succeeded as ballet master by Jean-Louis Aumer, who was however highly criticized for using too much mime and failing to use choreography which furthered plot or character.[16] In 1821, the company moved to a new house, the Salle Le Peletier, where Romantic ballet was born.

In 1875, the company moved to the Palais Garnier where it continues to perform.[1]

In 1929, Jacques Rouché invited 24-year-old dancer Serge Lifar to take over the directorship of the Paris Opéra Ballet, which had fallen into decline in the late 19th century. As ballet master from 1930 to 1944, and from 1947 to 1958, he devoted himself to the restoration of the technical level of the Opéra Ballet, returning it to its place as one of the best companies in the world. Lifar gave the company a new strength and purpose, initiating the rebirth of ballet in France, and began to create the first of many ballets for that company.[17] During his three decades as director of the Paris Opéra Ballet, Lifar led the company through the turbulent times of World War II and the German occupation of France. Lifar brought the Paris Opéra Ballet to America and performed to full houses at the New York City Center. Audiences were enthusiastic and had great admiration for the company of dancers.[17]

The Paris Opera Ballet School is one of the most preeminent in the world. Its former pupils have won a record of 18 Benois de la Danse awards since 1992. The school celebrated its tercentennial in 2013.


Choreographers associated with the Paris Opera Ballet and works created for the Paris Opera Ballet are:


There are five ranks of dancers in the Paris Opera Ballet, from highest to lowest they are: Danseur Étoile, premier danseur, sujet, coryphée, and quadrille.


Notable dancers

See also



  1. ^ a b c d "Paris Opera Ballet" in Crane and Mackrell 2000, pp. 360–361.
  2. ^ a b Christout 1998, p. 86.
  3. ^ "Histoire de l'Opéra national de Paris" (in French) at the Paris Opera website. Retrieved 19 July 2011.
  4. ^ Guest 2006, pp. 5–7.
  5. ^ Astier 1998a, p. 3.
  6. ^ a b Astier 1998b, pp. 396–397.
  7. ^ Astier 1998a, p. 4. The last list of its members was published in the 1779 Almanach des spectacles de Paris Archive Larousse.
  8. ^ Also referred to as the Académie Royale des Opéra (Powell 2010, p. 178).
  9. ^ Powell 1995, p. 179; Guest 2006, p. 7; Powell 2010, p. 178. It is frequently stated that Beauchamps choreographed the ballets for Pomone (e.g., Astier 1998a, p. 3). According to Powell, this misunderstanding is based on the 'Recueil de Tralage' (ca. 1697; MS 6544, Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Paris). A manuscript legal document in the Archives of the Comédie-Française makes clear, however, that Anthoine des Brosses, who had earlier served as dancing master for the Théâtre du Marais, choreographed the ballets for Pomone. Beauchamps only took over des Brosses's position with Perrin's company in the late autumn or early winter of 1671, when des Brosses moved back to the Marais to choreograph Jean Donneau de Visé's musical machine-play Le Mariage de Bacchus et d'Ariane (performed at the Théâtre du Marais in the winter of 1671–1672).
  10. ^ Powell 2008, pp. 127, 233 note 44; Powell 2010, p. 178; Jérôme de La Gorce, "Lully's first opera. A rediscovered poster for Les fêtes de l'Amour et de Bacchus", Early Music, vol. 15, no. 3, Lully Anniversary Issue (Aug., 1987), pp. 308–314, JSTOR 3137552. Libretto, 1672; ms score from the Philidor Collection, 1705.
  11. ^ a b Powell 2010, p. 178.
  12. ^ Astier 1998a, p. 3. Note however that the Gazette d'Amsterdam reports that nobles did dance in public at certain performances (cited by La Gorce 2002, pp. 189–190).
  13. ^ Christout 1998, pp. 86–87.
  14. ^ Quoted and translated by Powell 1995, p. 185, citing Réflexions critiques sur la poésie et sur la peinture, Paris, 1719, p. 357. See of the 1740 editionTroisième Partiep. 247 of the at Gallica.
  15. ^ Guest 2006, p. 9; Pitou 1983, pp. 249, 325–326. Le Triomphe de l'Amour at Le Triomphe de l'AmourScore of at Gallica.
  16. ^ a b Babsky 1998, p. 202.
  17. ^ a b Crisp, Clement (Winter 2002). "ICARE: Remembering Serge Lifar". Dance Research: The Journal of the Society for Dance Research. 2 20: 3–15.  
  18. ^


  • Astier, Régine (1998a). "Académie Royale de Danse" in Cohen 1998, vol. 1. pp. 3–5.
  • Astier, Régine (1998b). "Beauchamps, Pierre" in Cohen 1998, vol. 1., pp. 396–397.
  • Babsky, Monique (1998). "Aumer, Jean-Louis" in Cohen 1998, vol. 1, pp. 201–203.
  • Christout, Marie-Françoise (1998). "Paris Opera Ballet" in Cohen 1998, vol. 5, pp. 86–100.
  • Cohen, Selma Jeanne, editor (1998). International Encyclopedia of Dance (6 volumes). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-509462-6 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0-19-517369-7 (2004 paperback edition).
  • Craine, Debra; Mackrell, Judith (2000). The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-860106-7.
  • Guest, Ivor (2006). The Paris Opéra Ballet. Alton, Hampshire: Dance Books. ISBN 978-1-85273-109-0.
  • La Gorce, Jérôme de (2002). Jean-Baptiste Lully (in French). Paris: Fayard. ISBN 9782213607085.
  • Pitou, Spire (1983). The Paris Opéra: An Encyclopedia of Operas, Ballets, Composers, and Performers. Genesis and Glory, 1671–1715. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 978-0-686-46036-7.
  • Powell, John S. (1995). "Pierre Beauchamps, Choreographer to Molière's Troupe de Roy", Music & Letters, vol. 76, no. 2 (May), pp. 168–186. JSTOR 737729.
  • Powell, John S. (2008). "Pierre Beauchamps and the Public Theatre", pp. 117–135 in Dance, Spectacle, and the Body Politic, edited by Jennifer Nevile. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253351531. Online pdf.
  • Powell, John S. (2010). "Performance Practices at the Théâtre de Guénégaud and the Comédie-Française: Evidence from Charpentier's Mélanges autographes", pp. 161–183 in New Perspectives on Marc-Antoine Charpentier, edited by Shirley Thompson. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate. ISBN 9780754665793.

External links

  • (English)Official Website
    • (French)Official Website
      • (English)artistic staff
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