- Venue's Capacity: 1200
The city of Lyon has a long lyrical past, for, as early as 1697, the town obtained the authorisation (a then highly sought-after privilege) to open a Royal Academy of Music. Lyon's first permanent opera was built in 1756; the theatre was later razed, while its foundations served as the basis for a new theatre, opened in 1831. During this long history, the Lyon Opera forged, little by little, a solid reputation of proposing an innovative repertoire. This reputation was quite justified, and the Opera became known as the " cradle of French Wagnerianism," for it was here that the MEISTERSINGER, in 1896, and the RING, in 1904, were premiered in France. The Wagnerian tradition lasted until the Second World War, alongside an ever-increasing place reserved for contemporary works (Schoenberg and Henze were billed in 1967).
But it was mainly as of Louis Erlo's arrival at the head of the institution in 1969 that the house established a firm reputation as one of France's most dynamic theatres in the domain of lyrical creation. Besides the French premiere of Richard Strauss' DIE SCHWEIGSAME FRAU, the stage proposed the French premiere of works composed by, amongst others, Nono, Berio, and Bernd Alois Zimmermann, whose DIE SOLDATEN was performed here in 1983. This same year, the Lyon Opera became equipped with a permanent orchestra, with John Eliot Gardiner as its music director. Gardiner's wide ranging repertoire, and especially his sound knowledge of the baroque sensitivity, together with the affinity of his successor, Kent Nagano (appointed in 1988), for twentieth century music, have secured the orchestra's ability to readily adapt to the most diverse works.
In 1993, the new Lyon Opera was inaugurated, entirely redesigned by the architect Jean Nouvel. While the building underwent renovation, the company took advantage of the six seasons spent outside of its theatre to perform in different places, reaching out to a new audience. The new building, designed to incorporate a large glass wall into the existing walls of the old theatre, is symbolic of the Lyon Opera's past: a perfect union of audacity and tradition. The inaugural evening therefore included both a revival of Lully's PHAETON, that had opened the first season during the seventeenth century, and the premiere of Debussy's little-known unfinished opera RODRIGUE ET CHIMENE. Thanks to a reputation strengthened by continuing success, as well as a by the policy of maintaining a prestigious training programme for young singers and by the production of dynamic audiovisual projects, the Lyon Opera was, in 1996, the first Institution outside of Paris to receive the status of "National Opera by the French authorities.