Paris Opera Ballet

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Paris Opera Ballet
Paris Opera Ballet Logo.png
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,
France France
Senior staff
Administrator Olivier Aldeano
Director Brigitte Lefèvre
Artistic staff
Ballet master in chief
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]



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 entainments". 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 in 1780 (the last list of its members was published in the 1779 Almanach des spectacles de Paris.)[7]

Founding and early history[edit]

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), was Pomone, which was first performed on 3 March 1671 and included ballets choreographed by Pierre Beauchamps.[5]

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 Beauchamps as choreographer and Carlo Vigarani as stage designer, Lully's company, now called the Académie royale de musique, produced Les Festes de l'Amour et de Bacchus (a pastorale)[8] in November 1672. This work consisted primarily of excerpts from Lully's prior court ballets connected with new entrées created by Beauchamps. 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.[5]

The next production, Cadmus et Hermione (27 April 1673), the first tragédie lyrique, with a libretto by Philippe Quinault, was received ecstatically by Louis XIV. Lully, Quinault, and Beauchamps 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.[9]

Initially the dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet were all males. Mademoiselle de la Fontaine (1665–1738) became the first professional ballerina when she danced in the première of Lully's ballet Le Triomphe de l'Amour et de Bacchus[10], on 21 January 1681. Pierre Beauchamps continued to collaborate with Lully at the Paris Opera until Lully's death in 1687.[6]

Later history[edit]

The 18th century saw the creation of an associated school, now referred to as the Paris Opera Ballet School (French: École de Danse de l’Opéra de Paris), which opened in 1713. The operas of Rameau, and later Gluck, raised standards for the dancers. Jean-Georges Noverre was a particularly influential ballet master from 1776 to 1781. He created the ballet Les Petits Riens which used music by Mozart in 1778. 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 liberté.[1] He remained the ballet master up to 1820 and continued to work up to 1829.[11]

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.[11] 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]

The Paris Opera Ballet School has become 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: étoiles, premiers danseur, sujets, coryphées, and quadrilles.


Notable dancers[edit]

See also[edit]



  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. ^ a b c Astier 1998a, p. 3.
  6. ^ a b Astier 1998b, pp. 396–397.
  7. ^ Archive Larousse:
  8. ^ Les festes de l'Amour et de Bacchus,
  9. ^ Christout 1998, pp. 86–87.
  10. ^ Le Triomphe de l'Amour et de Bacchus,
  11. ^ a b Babsky 1998, p. 202.


  • 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.
  • Pitou, Spire (1983). The Paris Opéra: An Encyclopedia of Operas, Ballets, Composers, and Performers. Genesis and Glory, 1671–1715. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwod Press. ISBN 978-0-686-46036-7.

External links[edit]