Lyon Opera (Opéra de Lyon)

Watch a performance or tour the interior of this unusual opera house, which dramatically combines traditional and modern architectural styles.

The Opéra de Lyon or Nouvel Opera is an eye-catching building that incorporates an original 19th-century façade and foyer with a striking modern extension. A remarkable architectural feat that blends old and new, the opera house can be further explored on a tour or by buying tickets for a show.

Located in Lyon’s town center, the old Lyon opera theater was opened in 1831. It served its purpose for more than 150 years until the mid-1980s, when the city leaders decided it needed to be redesigned. They launched a competition. The winning design was that of controversial French architect Jean Nouvel, famous for designing other prominent buildings including the Arab World Institute in Paris and the Torre Agba in Barcelona. See the impressive finished work that was unveiled in 1993.

Stand back from the Opéra de Lyon to view the eclectic structure in all its glory. Note how the original neoclassical façade contrasts with the much more modern glass roof, creating an unexpected and surprising effect. The addition of this barrel vault roof and a basement helped create some much-needed additional space in the opera house. Return at night to see the statues that line the top of the façade attractively lit up.

Head inside and you’ll arrive in the modern foyer, part of the redesign. Upstairs lies the grand old-style foyer, the only other part of the old 19th-century opera house to survive the revamp. View the two performance spaces inside: a horseshoe-shaped auditorium and a modern amphitheater inspired by Greco-Roman architecture.

The opera house is the home of l’Opéra National de Lyon. It hosts a varied program that includes opera, ballet and other concerts. Check the website to see what’s being staged during your visit. Alternatively, arrange to take a backstage tour of the opera house. Tours take place on Saturdays and are in French. They can be booked through the Lyon tourist office.

L’Opéra de Lyon is easily accessible by taking the metro or bus to Hôtel de Ville-Louis Pradel station.

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