January 20, 2014

Exclusive Tour of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées

Back by popular demand, WICE is again offering an exclusive opportunity to visit the beautiful Art Deco Théâtre des Champs-Elysées – prestigious home of the Orchestre National de France.  Built in 1913, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées’ understated façade hides the artistically stunning interior.  On this guided tour, you will go behind the scenes to learn about the illustrative history of this theater – including why it’s not actually located on the Champs-Elysées - as well as admire all of its artistic adornments.  The design by the Perret brothers, artwork by Maurice Denis, Antoine Bourdelle, and Edouard Vuillard, and lights by René Lalique all work together to create a harmonious theater of beauty.    

photo courtesy of Théâtre des Champs-Elysées
Home to three different stages where visitors can attend operas, ballets, concerts, recitals, and repertory theatre, the jewel of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées is the Grand Théâtre with its ceiling frescoes by Maurice Denis.  With four panels covering over 300 square meters, the impressive frescoes illustrate Denis’ interpretation of the history of music.  Images of Greek art, symphony, opera, and tragedy are shown in each panel, along with key composers, singers, and dancers such as Bach, Beethoven, Wagner, Carmen, Don Juan, and Nijinski.  Denis completed these frescoes in less than three months in his workshop in Saint-Germain-en-Laye and for a sly personal touch, he included images of his own family members amongst the musical masters.

photo courtesy of Théâtre des Champs-Elysées
The Théâtre des Champs-Elysées has a strong history of modernization and historical moments.  This theatre was the first such building to be built out of concrete during a time when concrete was strictly reserved for buildings with industrial purposes.  Although the Grand Théâtre has a seating capacity of 2000, its innovative design still keeps an intimate feeling of closeness between the spectators and the performers.  
Shortly after the theatre’s opening in 1913, it presented the noteworthy premiere of the Rite of Spring. With this orchestral work composed by Igor Stravinski and accompanied by a performance of the extraordinary Russian Ballet dancer, Vaslav Nijinski, one would have expected sublime adoration on the part of the audience, however the conservative viewers shocked by the new music and non-traditional dance steps, lashed out in an angry uproar that resulted in 40 people being removed from the theatre.

Throughout its 100 year history, the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées has been host to a rich variety of musical artists and performers, including Duke Ellington, Elton John, Miles Davis, and Pink Floyd.  To celebrate its centennial, last July the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées held the Bal de Centaire.  In honor of Josephine Baker’s first performance in Paris having taken place at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in 1925, the theme of the evening was dedicated to her and the roaring ‘20s.  To prepare for the festivities, seats were removed from the Grand Théâtre, in order to install a temporary dance floor, so that the lucky party revelers could move to the music all night long.  


  • WICE Membership Benefit:  WICE Members receive a 15% discount on performances at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.  For more info, visit WICE Benefits.

Post by Veronica Kugler