The Monte-Carlo Opera
Also known as the Salle Garnier, Monaco’s opera house is a confection of neoclassical splendor adjoining the Monte Carlo Casino. The season runs from October through April.
Thanks to a recent $34 million renovation to the Salle Garnier, the spectacle of opera season in Monte Carlo rises to new heights. Over 80,000 gold leaves were applied to paintings and moldings, a five-ton chandelier was entirely rebuilt, and the windows overlooking the Mediterranean have been opened for the first time, making this the only opera house in the world to feature exterior views from within the concert space.
The venue also hosts the Monte-Carlo Jazz Festival, which attracts big names to play on its stage every November.
History of the Monte Carlo Opera House
In 1866, a small theater at the casino was inaugurated. The stage was so small that it didn’t allow for ambitious shows. The first show was an operetta in one act by Offenbach, Le 66, which marked the modest beginning of Monegasque lyrical life on December 10, 1867.
For a few years, the repertoire was limited to light works: operettas by Charles Lecocq or Victor Massé. In 1873, the first operas were performed: The Dream of a Midsummer Night, Romeo and Juliet, Faust, Don Pasquale… Nothing very glorious yet, as instead of the entire opera, only selected scenes were performed, with simple stages and minimal cast. “A necessity which finds its excuse in the cramped nature of the stage, the difficulties of recruiting choristers at this stage, time of the year, and the time of departure of the trains” deplored the Journal de Monaco.
The larger theater, as we know it now, was built onto the Casino de Monte-Carlo in the winter of 1879. Charles Garnier, the architect of the Paris Opera House, was responsible for adding a concert hall worthy of the name to the casino. Construction work began in June 1878, and took only 8 months and 16 days, from laying of the first foundation stones to the finished paintings on the vaulted ceiling. This record time was made possible thanks to night lighting and workers rotating day and night shifts.
Since its opening in 1879, the opera house has premiered many important works. For more than a century, the Monte-Carlo Opera’s stage has been the setting for international operatic creations, prestigious concerts, and exceptional ballets. Such was the region’s cultural muscle that performances boasted costumes by Coco Chanel, sets by Pablo Picasso and posters by Jean Cocteau.
Garnier also designed the entrance to the Casino, which was built in 1893. Its marble paved “atrium”, surrounded with 28 Ionic columns made of onyx, gives access to the Opera Hall which is entirely decorated in red and gold, with bas-reliefs and sculptures.
It’s also interesting to note that the dinner reception for the royal wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene took place on the terraces of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, followed by fireworks and the opening of the Opéra Ball.
Information for Visiting the Monte-Carlo Opera House
Tickets: Book tickets online.
Show Times: 8pm
Website: Visit the opera house’s official website.
Contact: [email protected]
Viewings: Join one of the casino’s morning tours (which run from 9am to 1pm and last 40 minutes) to see the Salle Garnier (Opera theater).
Tickets for the opera range in price from €15 to €200. Subscriptions are also available, and give you priority booking, which is valuable as these events are in high demand and usually quickly sell out. There are also special performances and tickets for young adults (under 26 years old, with subscription prices for two shows ranging from €48 to €104).
Shorts, t-shirts, and sweatshirts of all types are prohibited. Gentlemen must wear a blazer / suit jacket. Dark jeans and smart casual shoes (like loafers) are tolerated. Evening gowns are recommended for women. As a side note, many of Monaco’s restaurants will also turn you away at dinnertime if you’re wearing shorts or casual shoes.
Prices vary between seasons, but throughout the year it is €17 for adults to complete the audio guide tour of the casino and opera hall (enter via the casino’s main entrance). Included in this price is a drink, restaurant or game token at the casino. Each tour takes place between 9am and 1pm, with last entry at 12:15pm.