Some time ago, I wrote on my travel blog about my first visit to the Palais Garnier, including buying a scalped ticket to the sold-out Coppélia. While that was an adventure all its own, even when tickets are available on the Opéra de Paris website, it is not always obvious what you are, or should, be getting. The seating and pricing chart is very complicated and advice on where to sit can be hard to find on the Internet. So, because I recently visited once again to see La Dame aux camélias and took the time to get the full lay of the land, I thought it might be valuable to have a separate post on this topic since I have quite a few readers who seem to find their way here via my ballet posts.
If there are tickets available, you can reserve online and print out your ticket at home well in advance. Unfortunately, to even check availability, you have to first register on the site, which is annoying. However, it was handy to have already done this when I found myself trying to plan a trip quickly and could easily access the site and see what was available.
Once you have selected your desired performance and ticket price level, the reservation system picks the “best” seat for your price range, but there is no corresponding chart with numbered seats to let you know where it’s located. Before you actually purchase your ticket, you see a photo of the view from your exact seat, so you eventually see precisely what you are buying. If you know what you are doing, there are great deals to be had in the loges, which are by far the best cheap seats I’ve ever been in.
Seriously, dude, where’s my box?
Boxes are numbered starting at the stage with even numbers to the right (stage left) and odd numbers to the left (stage right). So, the lower your number, the closer you are to the stage, and the more cut off one side of the stage will be. On all three levels, the box numbered 39 is dead center, facing the stage. I would caution against boxes #1-18, unless you can get seats at the front of the box. Even then, depending on the blocking, it can be frustrating. Kátia Kabanová (where I was seated in the 2ème loge, box #12, seat #1) would have been a nightmare had I been seated in the equivalent spot on the “odd” side.
Ideally, in each box, you want seats #1 and/or #2, which are at the front.*
On the sides (boxes numbered up to 24), seat #3 is a far, far better than seat number #4—both are in the second row but the seat farther away from the stage will give you a better angle, while the seat closer to the stage may be blocked by the person in seat #1 in the next box over. At La Dame aux camélias, I was behind someone who constantly moved their head (despite having an unobstructed view!) so I eventually moved to stand behind seat #3, which was a much better view of the whole stage. This was only possible because no one was in seats #5 or #6, but I think in the future I might consider seat #5 over seat #4 so that I can have the possibility of standing at the back. In general, unless there are no other options, I would avoid seats #4-6 in boxes 1-24.
As for cheap seating at the Bastille, it is much more clear-cut, with modern balconies. Because of the steep stadium seating in the second balcony, I felt like I had “nosebleed” seats, but the sound was good and it was great to have a completely unobstructed view, if far away.
One final note: I abhor the fact that there are no real programs handed out at Opéra de Paris performances. Much like at The Nutcracker at San Francisco Ballet, one receives only a slip of paper with the bare bones of casting information and basic credits. A full program must be purchased separately at the obscene rate of 12€ (at writing, about $16). At a minimum, I think the synopsis of the action should be freely available, especially since it is not necessarily available on the website.
If you have any further questions about seating at the Palais Garnier, please feel free to contact me via email at the address given on the contact page. (Si vous avez encore des questions à propos des places au Palais Garnier, n’hésitez pas à me contacter à l’adresse donnée sur la page “contact”.)
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*Boxes 1-4 are a bit bigger and have more than two seats in the front row.