I took the tour many years ago but I never actually sat in a box and watched a performance. I did tonight. It was a feast for the eyes. In every direction, gold, sculpture, chandeliers and, oh yeah, that Chagall on the ceiling! And that's just the performance hall. The preliminaries are also every bit the worthy appetizer before the main course. I had to stop every few feet because I kept looking up and around and otherwise would have likely fallen down one of the dramatic staircases.
There was champagne for sale before and during the fairly long intermission, which was long enough to even step out on the front balcony terrace and watch Paris unfolding before you - cars circling the building, symmetrical buildings all around, and people sitting on the steps below. It felt very special to be inside the theater for a performance, just imagining all the history (and all the gorgeous gowns and tuxedos) that must have gone before. There were definitely no gowns and tuxedos in 2011 tonight, but most appeared to have polished up a bit for the occasion.
The occasion was the Paris Opera Ballet, one of the best ballet companies in the world. Tonight was a performance of two ballets, the second being a new ballet by Alexei Ratmansky, who is currently Artist in Residence at American Ballet Theatre. Because I have seen some of his beautiful choreography there, I was very interested to see more.
I bought my ticket online through the Paris Opera Ballet's web site just a few days ago. It was very easy. It doesn't let you select your exact seat but you can pick the general price location. Picking up the ticket was confusing. I followed the signs to what I think is the box office, in the back of the building. But they sent me back around to the front of the building, where I eventually figured out that I had to wait in a line for a will-call desk just inside the front doors. The line moved quickly, especially since ticket-holders mistakenly placed themselves in the same line. You are given an order number during the online purchase. It's important to bring that with you to pick up the tickets.
I really lucked out, too, in my seat location - just off the center, first row in a box which had a door that had to be unlocked by an attendant. How elegant, and how perfect for my very first evening at l'Opéra.