Screened as part of NZIFF 2017
“The Palais Garnier has graced the ninth arrondissement since 1875, dazzling onlookers with its ornate beaux-arts facade and gilded statuary honoring the fine arts… In this captivating documentary, Swiss director Jean-Stéphane Bron takes audiences inside one of the world’s great performing arts venues for one season, revealing the complex artistic collaborations at its heart… The film illuminates the backstage bustle of the Opéra National de Paris and the scores of artists, financiers, administrators, and patrons that make the whole endeavor possible. Through the company’s tireless director Stéphane Lissner, the glories and peculiar challenges of working in such a legendary setting are detailed.
Can the production designer safely get a 1,200-pound live bull onstage during a performance of Schoenberg’s Moses and Aaron? How far can ticket prices be lowered to combat the perceived elitism of the opera? Is Bryn Terfel available for a last-minute substitution in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg? A sense of barely contained chaos descends as labor unions strike, a precocious [and adorable] young bass-baritone debuts, and tensions arise between the corps de ballet and their improbably named choreographer, Benjamin Millepied. All the while, an army of polyglot chorists, stage managers, wig stylists, linen pressers, and makeup artists help shape the much-lauded performances that leave ballerinas and maestros alike sweating and exhausted, collapsing in the wings.” — Paul Meyers, San Francisco International Film Festival