Le Théatre de Châtelet

It’s a commonplace that Paris is a great city of culture. But if you don’t speak French, and you’re bored of staring at paintings, traipsing around the shops and learning about the revolution, what exactly do you do?

Actually I can think of many things, but few are as fun as a last-minute ticket to the opera in the Théatre du Châtelet. A quick phone call at 3:00 pm on Wednesday, a 20 EUR charge to my card, and suddenly we’re having a beer on the Place du Châtelet, waiting for 8:00 pm to roll around, to hear Plácido Domingo belt out Cyrano de Bergerac at the top of his great big Italian lungs. Score.

There’s not much more to add; this is a perfect evening. Tickets range from 10 EUR (highly limited visibility, fifth floor) to somewhere around 120 EUR (Plácido showers you with saliva as he mispronounces his Molière and struggles with the French ‘r’). Either way, you’re in one of the prettiest theatres I’ve ever seen. The setting is so perfect, you may as well be at the première. Pick tickets up at will-call. Sit on the terrace of the ‘Au Vieux Châtelet’ for a drink beforehand. Watch the crowds gather: quite a colourful and mixed scene of Parisian society. Enjoy that time of day as everyone streams home from work. In fact, this was the best moment of street bustle that I’ve seen for a while. I digress. Pop inside, settle in, and enjoy the opera. Leave when bored. Our seats were so high up (10 EUR, after all) that when we reached the fourth floor and asked the attendant which door was ours, he glanced at our tickets before replying, dolefully ‘à l’étage, Monsieur’. I’ve never felt so pitied in my life. However, as we enjoyed a drink on the fifth floor balcony overlooking the Place de Châtelet and the river during the interval, self-pity was quickly washed away with smug self-satisfaction. Quite the view.

Overlooking the Place de Châtelet and the river during the interval, self-pity was quickly washed away with smug self-satisfaction.

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