“Tomorrow’s opera depends on our capacity and will to invent tomorrow’s repertory”
Serge Dorny, General Director
Between the Rhône and the Saône, at the meeting point of the Terreaux neighbourhood and the bottom of the slopes of the Croix-Rousse, in the heart of Lyon, the Opéra National de Lyon, renovated in 1993 by the architect Jean Nouvel, is an emblematic theatre in contemporary architecture. The Opéra de Lyon is above all an immense cylindrical glass roof, lit up red on evenings when there is a show, lying on the historical façades of a theatre going back to 1831. Within this casing, the main hall with its 1,100 seats occupies an impressive black shell suspended at the heart of an architecture which conveys the project of a fascinating journey towards modernity and innovation.
When, in 2003, he became General Director of the Opéra de Lyon, Serge Dorny, who had previously been the general and artistic director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, also provided this institution with a fresh stimulus, based around two fundamental values: artistic excellence and an openness to the broadest public. Serge Dorny decided to widen the artistic territory of the Opera towards an original programme, through a series of decisive choices, including programming each season, and for three weeks, a festival offering several shows alternately, dedicated to a composer (Offenbach, Janáček, Puccini, Britten or else Verdi), a theme (Japan, Justice/Injustice, For Humanity, Lives and Destinies...) or else a form (one-act operas). While the guest directors and choreographers, both established and upcoming, are great talents on the international scene, the audacity of this programme is also made possible by the excellence of the Opéra de Lyon’s teams: an Orchestra of 62 musicians, a Chorus of 34 singers, a Ballet of 32 permanent dancers, the Children’s Choir, and the Studio of the Opera (17 young singers), but also artisans and technicians who form a full unity of production including construction workshops for sets and the making of costumes, props, etc. Offering the public a broad repertory, with creations and rare pieces, the Opéra de Lyon is an artistic theatre and far more: it is a cultural centre, a site for exchanges and encounters between works, artists and audiences. A site for curiosity and openness that allows the greatest number of people to discover shows that provide pleasure but also to think.
In this respect, the programme of operas, classical concerts and contemporary dance is enriched each season by new events: open-house days, weekends of debates, jazz concerts, world or electronic music, shows for children, exhibitions…
“The Opéra needs to contribute to the debate, not with the idea of guiding the public and providing answers, but as an invitation to think about the topics that concern the city.”
Serge Dorny, General Director
À ce titre la programmation d’opéras, de concerts classiques et de danses contemporaines s'enrichit chaque saison de nombreux événements : journées portes ouvertes, week-ends de débats, concerts de jazz, de musique du monde ou électronique, spectacles pour enfants, expositions…
This idea of a civic opera house, expressed in terms of sharing and openness – the sharing of artistic experiences, an openness towards other publics, thanks to the Développement culturel pole – can also be seen at the Opéra de Lyon in a more general policy of sustainable development whose working principle is simple: making coherent its processes and working methods, along with its mission and values.
While its actions mean that it is an essential pole in the cultural life of the town, the Opéra de Lyon also provides a national and international outreach for the city, Greater Lyon and the Region Auvergne-Rhône Alpes. This can be seen in its worldwide opera and dance tours, a ballet whose reputation reaches both Asia and the United States, but also a powerful and regular presence in various international festivals (Aix-en-Provence, Edinburgh...).
As the winner of numerous prizes, delivered by international juries and underlining its success – Opera Company of the year 2017, awarded by the prestigious German monthly publication “Opernwelt” – the Opéra de Lyon has now become an essential institution which has succeeded in affirming its presence in its city with a national and international outreach, based on a local cultural weave and a constantly renewed rigour. In other words: a spirit of openness and artistic excellence.