The Paris Opera

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France | 2016 | 110 minutes | Jean-Stéphane Bron

L’Opera

June 19, 2017

Spend a season amid the backstage hustle and bustle of The Paris Opera in this captivating chronicle that shines a spotlight on the complex army of collaborators who make one of the most prestigious performing-arts institutions in the world possible.

It's audition day at the Paris Opera, and a director of an upcoming production is flipping through photos online, seeking just the right casting for a role. This one's too hard to work with, that one's too tall… ah, this one is golden. Literally. We're checking out not sopranos, but bulls—we need a Golden Calf for Schoenberg's "Moses und Aron"—and spending an hour on the equivalent of Bovine Tinder is just another task at one of the world's most prestigious opera and ballet houses, the subject of Jean-Stephane Bron's doc. They worry about how the bull will behave onstage, but a more pressing concern is the chorus, who complain that the set's acoustic anomalies make it too hard to hear each other. The director counter-complains: What about my concept? These are just two of the buffet of stories Bron ambles among with his unobtrusive camera; others include a star-struck Russian baritone getting his big break, a lead singer canceling two days before opening night, and staffing cuts mandated by the Ministry of Culture. (There is an upside to having a government that ignores art.) The first performance given after the Bataclan nightclub massacre and young string players sawing their way through Beethoven's Seventh as their mentor beams beatifically provide contrasting emotional high points in this easygoing portrait of a complex, drama-filled organization.

Director Biography

Writer-actor-director Jean-Stéphane Bron, who is mainly a director of documentary films (his first narrative film was the 2006 drama Mon frère se marie) was born in 1969 in Lausanne. He graduated from the School of Fine and Applied Arts of Lausanne (ECAL). In 2013, Bron directed L'Expérience Blocher, a portrait of the controversial Swiss nationalist-populist leader Christoph Blocher, which premiered in Locarno that year, and in 2010, his film Cleveland vs. Wall Street premiered at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the Directors' Fortnight. He has been nominated for a César for Best Documentary and has won the Swiss Film Award twice. Bron is a co-founder of the Swiss production company Bande A Part Films, together with Ursula Meier, Frédéric Mermoud and Lionel Baier.

Sponsored by KEXP 90.3 FM, MoPop (Museum of Pop Culture), Lux Pot Shop, Hardly Art Records, Seattle Composers Alliance, TV5MONDE, The Wine Group (Chloe Wine Collection)

  • Director: Jean-Stéphane Bron
  • Principal Cast: Stéphane Lissner, Benjamin Millepied
  • Premiere Status: Seattle
  • Country: France, Switzerland
  • Year: 2016
  • Running Time: 110 minutes
  • Producer: Philippe Martin, David Thion
  • Screenplay: Jean-Stéphane Bron
  • Cinematographers: Blaise Harrison
  • Editors: Julie Léna
  • Music: Benjamin Millepied
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Filmography: L'Expérience Blocher (2013); Cleveland vs. Wall Street (2010); Mon frère se marie (2006)
  • Language: French
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • US Distributor: Film Movement
  • International Sales: Les Films du Losange