Bibliotheque-Musee de l'Opera National de Paris at Palais Garnier Opera House
The Bibliotheque-Musee de l'Opera National de Paris basically translates to the library and museum of the National Opera of Paris and is located within the historical building of the Palais Garnier Opera House in Paris.
History of the Opera Library and the Opera Museum
The history of opera in Paris dates back to the 1600s when the Royal Academy of Dance was founded along with the Royal Academy of Music, but at that time and right through to the mid 19th century there was no actual institution that was officially given the task of managing archives.
It was only when the project to build the new opera house in house was entrusted to the architect Charles Garnier, that the idea of preserving and managing archives and forming a library came about and was incorporated within the project and both the library and the archives were set up in 1866.
A pavilion on the west side of the Palais Garnier called the Rotonde de l’Empereur was originally designed to be the private entrance for the Emperor, Napoleon III, but unfortunately he died before he ever saw this new opera house completed and this was therefore where the library and archive section was located.
Charles Nuitter began the task of cataloguing the opera archives and a few years later Theodore Lajarte was appointed librarian and started to organise the opera scores and instrumental parts. By 1876 he had published an inventory that covered the period from 1671 up until that date.
Therefore it was inevitable that the archive section and the library were merged together, and by 1881 they had also put in place a museum open to the public. The library museum called the Bibliotheque-Musee de l’Opera National de Paris originally came under the Secretary of State for Fine Art.
But the Opera Library and museum then became a part of the National Library in 1935, and then it became attached to the National Library Music Department when this was set up in 1942 and still remains a part of this today.
Bibliotheque-Musee de l'Opera National de Paris today
Consisting of archives, a library, and a museum, the Bibliotheque-Musee de l’Operal National de Paris preserves the rich heritage of the Opera de Paris and holds materials on lyrical theatre and dance, as well as including archived materials that date back three centuries.
The Opera Library has musical documents including scores and handwritten manuscripts, along with graphic materials such as mock-ups and drawings of sets and costumes in addition to the literary materials.
The original museum used to consist mainly of souvenirs and items that had belonged to singers, dancers, composers and musicians, however, over the years the Musee de l’Opera museum has grown substantially.
In fact, there is now a collection of around 2,500 scale model mock-ups of stage sets, 3,000 different objects, 500 paintings and approximately 3,000 items of stage jewellery and costumes, but the collection is far too large to display all items at once, and therefore they organise different exhibitions to showcase items that are not on permanent display.
Items are also provided on loan to other museums in Paris from time to time for temporary exhibitions on a specific theme, like one held at the Musee d’Orsay, but you can still enjoy the five different rooms of the Opera Museum with its permanent exhibits that goes through the history of opera in Paris over the centuries.
So you will be able to see costumes, memorabilia, paintings, drawings of scenery, some scale models of mock ups for old stage sets, a bronze sculpture of Alexandre Kalioujny who was a Russian dancer and much more all relating to music, opera, dance, ballet and the Opera Garnier.
Access to Musee de l’Opera National de Paris
Situated in the Rotonde de l'Empereur, in the west pavilion adjoining the main facade of the Palais Garnier that was originally designed Napoleon III's use, it is located in the 9th Arrondissement of Paris.
The Palais Garnier Opera Library and Museum are normally open on a Monday to Saturday from 10am through to 5pm, however, they always close on a Sunday and on all National French Holidays. But in addition to these closures, there is an annual closure each year from mid April through to the end of April and the exhibitions cannot be accessed when there is a matinee performance.
If you are studying or you are a researcher, then there is a reading room that is also available on the same times as above, but if you are researching specifics and need certain documents that are not on view, then these would have to be requested at least one hour in advance.
The cost of entry to the Opera Museum is €7 as of 2012, however, there is a reduced rate of €5 for those aged between 18 and 25 or the disabled and free admission to children under the age of 18 with proof.
You can also opt for a guided tour, which is a cost of €3 per person as of 2012, although as far as we are aware, at present this is only in French.
The closest Metro stations are the Opera stop on lines 3, 7 and 8 or the Chaussee-d’Antin - La Fayette on lines 7 and 9, but there is also the RER station called Auber close by via line A. Also there are numerous Paris buses that will also get you to the Palais Garnier and the Biblioteque-Musee de l’Opera National de Paris such as numbers 20, 21, 27, 29, 42, 52, 66, 68, and 95.