The Lyon Opera house

Take a tour of the Lyon Opera House

Lyon Opera HouseOpéra de Lyon

Opéra de Lyon

Lyon has possessed an opera house for three and a half centuries. The four outer walls and the public foyer of the 19th century building were preserved. Inside this empty shell a new 18-floor building was constructed offering three times more space than before. Inside the theatre the architect Jean Nouvel brings a dramatic feel to the public areas through various shades of shiny or dark black hinting at perspectives and volumes along with symbols suggestive of ocean voyages. The building plays with light. Glass walls create transparency and reflect spaces whilst black muffles contours. At night the upper glass structure comes ablaze with light.

Contrasts are omnipresent, between the original neo-classical architecture and the modernity of the new building, between open and empty spaces, and between blacks, reds and golds. As audience members enter the main auditorium they too become part of the performance as they “slip through the curtain” between the double doors, their silhouettes reflected in the golden panels, before taking their place in front of the optical fibre “footlights”.

The show begins…

The PeristyleOpéra de Lyon

The Peristyle

The Peristyle, flagged with black granite, runs along three of the four sides of the opera house. The ceiling is decorated with a partial reproduction of the previous auditorium. Each summer, the peristyle, as a place to meet but also for local hip-hop dancers to express themselves artistically, offers not only somewhere to eat, but also open-air concerts, and is much liked for its “designer” look, signed by Jean Nouvel.

Entrance HallOpéra de Lyon

Reception area

The glass walls on each side of the entrance hall ensure dialogue and urban continuity between the inside and the outside whilst emphasising the theatre’s place in the life of the city. Drawn towards the reception desk by a deliberately low ceiling, visitors catch a glimpse of the massive shiny black shell of the main auditorium suspended in a volume measuring more than 30 metres high.

Main FoyerOpéra de Lyon


A souvenir of the theatre of 1831, the grand public foyer, serves as a counterpoint to the new architecture. Its original decoration, which has been restored, is reflected in the polished black granite floor. The ceiling paintings by the Lyon artist Daumer represent allegories on musical subjects.

Entrance to main TheatreOpéra de Lyon

The main stageOpéra de Lyon

Main auditorium

The Italian style or horseshoe-shaped main auditorium retains a warm and intimate character. The stalls and six balconies provide 1,100 seats in all. For optimal protection from vibrations caused by underground trains and traffic noise, the metallic structure of the auditorium is suspended from six metallic beams.

The AmphitheatreOpéra de Lyon


This performance area draws its inspiration from the Greco-Roman theatre. Its size (200 seats) favours proximity between performers and the public: the audience surround the stage area. At the rear, an area offers a striking upward view of the shell of the main auditorium.

Large Ballet StudioOpéra de Lyon

The main rehearsal studio

The main rehearsal studio looks out over an exceptional panorama: the roofs of the City Hall. Its surface area of 420 m2 enables the dancers to rehearse in an area equivalent to that of the main stage. The six louvers hanging from the ceiling reduce echoes caused by the presence of glass.

The Chorus studioOpéra de Lyon

Chorus studio

This studio is used by the chorus to prepare operatic works before taking part in stage rehearsals. The special sound-absorbing surface of the walls allows singers to sing at full voice as if they were in a space as large as the main auditorium.

Les MusesOpéra de Lyon

The Muses

On the facade of the Opera are the sculptures of the eight Muses of the Arts. (the 9th Muse, Urania, muse of astronomy, was never made due to lack of space). The Muses gives its name to a dining area, with terrace offering a unique view of the city.

Credits: Story


04 69 85 54 54

Serge Dorny, general manager

The Lyon Opera is subsidized by the Ministry of Culture and Communication, the City of Lyon, the regional council of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and the Metropole of Lyon.

Photos © Stofleth

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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