The Lyon Opera House is one of the most interesting works of architecture as well as one of the top attractions in the city. The very first opera house was erected in the city of Lyon in 1756. Jacques-Germain Soufflot, who also designed the Pantheon in Paris, designed this Lyon opera house. As early as the beginning of the nineteenth century, it was determined that the space was unsuitable in terms of space. Antoine-Marie Chenavard and Jean-Marie Pollet would design the next Opera National de Lyon, which officially opened in 1831. It was thought to be rather plain, but was much better equipped to provide the sound and space that was required of a professional opera house.
It was not until 1985 that the city undertook to rehabilitate and essentially rebuild the Opera National de Lyon. The great challenge would be to do so within the existing building from 1831. This was when one of the greatest French architects, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Jean Nouvel, was brought in to see the project to successful completion. The Lyon Opera House was to undergo a complete overhaul that would address structural issues, matters of limited space for the opera and ballet company to rehearse, and many more such considerations. The architect tackled the challenge and came up with some absolutely brilliant solutions. Firstly, the idea to excavate below the ground of the current opera house led to much more space for the opera to rehearse. Essentially, Jean Nouvel tripled the space that was in the 1831 building. But it was not just on account of the ingenious excavation plans. He also designed a tall, steel and glass barrel vault that added a considerable amount of space that was not there before. The glass barrel vaulted ceiling comprises a full six levels of the eighteen total at the Lyon Opera House.
When you visit the Lyon Opera House, you will not only be witnessing one of the architectural wonders of the second half of the twentieth century, a great illustration of some of Lyon's history, but you will also get to see a wonderful orchestra perform classical works. The Lyon Symphony Orchestra conducts its performances in the large theater, while many jazz, chamber music, and world music performances take place in the amphitheater.
There are some common misconceptions about the Opera National de Lyon. First, that it is prohibitively expensive. This is just not true as you can get tickets to many performances for less that ten Euros. It is not exclusively a black-tie affair either. If you reference the official website of the Lyon Opera House, you will notice that the only rules concerning dress are that you wear whatever is comfortable to you. When you visit Lyon, you will want to at least see the building, if not witness one of the shows. It is a real treat to actually get to see one of the performances in this legendary theater that combines classical performances with modern musicals. You could see a performance of Porgy and Bess on one night in the amphitheater, and the Lyon Symphony Orchestra in the large theater the next night. The theater seats approximately 1,100 people and makes a great thing to do to add to any vacation itinerary.