History and Architecture of the Lille Opera

Discover the history of the Lille Opera, one of the last Italian style venues built in France.

Opéra de Lille

The Lequeux Theatre destroyed by fire in 1903 (1903)Opéra de Lille

The Grand Théâtre, a symbol of revival

In 1787, the city of Lille opened its Grand Théâtre, where the majority of the city's musical and singing performances would take place. The Théâtre Lequeux, named after its local architect, was destroyed by fire in 1903. The city then decided to build a temporary theater out of bricks, the Théâtre Sébastopol, as interim measure until they could build a new opera house.

The New TheaterOpéra de Lille

From the Grand Théâtre to the Lille Opera

The city authorities launched a competition to decide who would be the architect of the new Grand Théâtre, and in the end, the winning plan was drawn up by Louis-Marie Cordonnier, the architect of the neo-Flemish belfry next to the opera house. Work on the construction of this neoclassical building, inspired by the Opéra Garnier in Paris, began in 1907 and was largely completed by 1913.

View from the Great StaircaseOpéra de Lille

Architecture and decorative aspects

Louis-Marie Cordonnier paid particular attention to the decorative aspects, which were originally designed in shades of blue and gold, with a focus on the theme of mythology. The facade was ornamented with allegorical figures, as were the Grand Foyer (Entrance Hall) and the cupola of the Grande Salle (Main Hall).

Ceiling of the Grand FoyerOpéra de Lille

La Ronde des Heures by Georges Picard on the ceiling of the Entrance Hall.

Dressing roomOpéra de Lille

Cloakrooms of the Lille Opera are genuine.

ParterreOpéra de Lille

Main hall entrance

Chandelier of the Great HallOpéra de Lille

Chandelier in the Main Hall, surrounded by eight medallions by Victor Lhomme and Georges Dilly, representing the virtues.

Great HallOpéra de Lille

View of the main hall from the stage

German soldiers in front of the Lille Opera HouseOpéra de Lille

The German occupation

The new building was miraculously spared the bombardments of October 1914, which razed the surrounding neighborhood to the ground, and was requisitioned by the German army, who staged around one hundred shows and concerts during their occupation that lasted almost four years. It was not until 1923 that the Lille Opera enjoyed its French premiere. The opera house went on to host great singers and actors like Cabanel, José de Trévi, Huberty, and Georges Thill, until it was occ

Orchestra playing in the pitOpéra de Lille

The Opéra du Nord

In 1979, the Opéra du Nord (Northern Opera) was born out of the financial and organizational cooperation between the three cities of Lille, Roubaix, and Tourcoing, existing until 1985.

Chandelier restauration (2002)Opéra de Lille


The dilapidation of certain elements of the opera house and the desire to give the public a high-quality venue in both technical and esthetic terms encouraged the Lille city authorities to close the building in 1998 in order to carry out major construction work. In particular, the stage was renovated and modernized, while new rehearsal areas were set up to support the artistic teams in their creative work.

Public entrance (2017)Opéra de Lille


The Lille Opera reopened in December 2003 with Caroline Sonrier as its director, just in time to mark the start of Lille 2004 European Capital of Culture (Lille was selected by the European Union to hold an array of cultural events during a calendar year), revolving around an innovative project to give center stage to the performance and creation of the lyrical arts, contemporary dance, and music.

Poster for the reopening of the Opera House, Pascal Colrat, Philippe Lakits, 2003, From the collection of: Opéra de Lille
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Poster for the reopening of the Opera House, Pascal Colrat, Philippe Lakits, 2003, From the collection of: Opéra de Lille
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Poster for the reopening of the Opera House, Pascal Colrat, Philippe Lakits, 2003, From the collection of: Opéra de Lille
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Aerial visit (2017)Opéra de Lille

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