Why is Lissner wrecking the Opéra?

Why is Lissner wrecking the Opéra?


norman lebrecht

November 10, 2015

The question is put coherently by Sylvain Fort, editor of Forumopera, which is leading a campaign to stop the unsightly removal of partitions between boxes at the historic Palais Garnier.


garnier partition 3

The director of the Opéra, Stéphane Lissner, is spending 300,000 Euros to remove the barriers, with the aim of making 300-600,000 a year from about 30 extra seats.

That’s peanuts in real terms, says Sylvain. The bull in the recent production of Moses und Aron cost 50k, the strike two months ago left a 400k budget hole.

Leave the boxes alone, says Sylvain. Focus on running an efficient opera house.

Sign the anti-wrecking petition here.


garnier partition

A Garnier box with partition removed. So ugly.

garnier partitin 2


  • herrera says:

    The partitions block the view and forces the people in the back to stand and peer over the shoulders of those sitting in front to see the stage. It is more unsightly and distracting to see audience members milling in the background. Removing the partitions create a more democratizing effect.

  • Emil says:

    How dare he try to get more people into the Opera?

  • Emil says:

    “« Les cloisons séparant ces loges étaient déjà retirées lors des soirées de gala ou, par exemple, pour la venue du président de la République, c’est bien pour cela qu’elles étaient amovibles. Nous allons simplement généraliser ce système à la plupart des représentations afin d’offrir davantage de places ayant une bonne visibilité et une meilleure acoustique », explique Stéphane Lissner.

    « Il faut savoir, poursuit-il, que sur les quelque 2000 places de l’opéra Garnier, 500 sont extrêmement médiocres, voire avec une visibilité nulle. Cela faut donc le coup de réfléchir au moyen d’offrir au public davantage de bons fauteuils. » ”


    What is so destructive about moving movable furniture more regularly?

  • Marc-Antoine Hamet says:

    Throughout the years, have you tried a diversity of seats at Palais Garnier?
    I have, and I can tell you that when I was a student, I was not looking forward to attend anything at Palais Garnier (bad value for money, if you can’t see much!).
    With more money, come better seats…
    Mr.Lissner’s point seems perfectly reasonable.
    No need to make buzz to sign this petition and raise what a false controversy.

  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    These partitions are a throw-back to a period in the late 19th century when the back section of the boxes (aka Baignoires) had couches for playing out scenes not appropriate on stage (until recent Euro-trash breakthroughs). Having sat in those boxes, I can testify that unless you are in the first row, visibility ranges from poor to nil. In my naivete, I would also suggest that the removal of the partitions might improve this auditorium acoustically (or not).

    If they were designed to be movable, why not give it a try?

  • Frankster says:

    Robert Fitzpatrick’s memory is perhaps a little fuzzy. Each of the loges in question had a direct view of the stage and superior acoustics. They are among the most expensive seats in the house. He might be remembering the loges on each side of the horseshoe shaped hall. And there is no question that the removal of the walls has dramatically changed the appearance of the hall. Since the hall is classified a national monument this is certainly a problem for Mr. Lissner.

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Fuzzy-Wuzzy was a bear…but even at my advanced age, I remember sitting in “une baignoire” in the center of the house and, IMHO, from the back of the loge, the sight-lines were obstructed (by the people in front of me) and I have always found that there is no “bloom” on the orchestral sound in that venerable theater especially in the back of the boxes. A chacun ses gustibuses.

  • Baron Z says:

    I believe partitions were installed in part to mute talking.
    Without partitions, how will I have my “scenes” in the back of the box?
    They’re already being removed, so it’s obviously too late to do anything.

  • herrera says:

    Boxes were hereditary estates that belonged to the noblest families. The partitions were effectively walls that separated one estate from another. There was a strict hierarchy of boxes depending on its proximity from the Royal box, smack in the center.

    Oh, don’t think you could just show up with your 200 euros and ask for an empty seat. If the family didn’t invite you into their box, no arriviste is going get to sit next to the Duchess de Guermantes. And when one noble family is disgraced, their box goes to the next family in line, and there is a big musical-chairs change-up. And don’t you think that as a nouveau riche bourgeois that you’re going to snag a box that opens up. You got to marry into the family first to see the opera, baby.

    There you have it, 250 years after the French Revolution, we are finally coming around to tearing down the walls at the opera house. Vive la France!