What’s New in the West End

Philippe Thanh 29/09/2016

The opening of a new concert hall is always an event. The birth of the "Seine Musicale" on the Ile Seguin in Paris and Boulogne-Billancourt is no exception, especially since the project doesn’t lack ambition. Not so long ago it was fashionable to complain about the lack of decent auditoriums in Parisian. Admittedly, we had a bipolar Opera (Garnier and Bastille), three beautiful historic halls (Pleyel, Théâtre des Champs Elysees and Châtelet), but large concert halls worthy of the 20th century ... then of the 21st century – none at all. While at the same time, regional capitals built auditoriums to make Paris music lovers jealous.

Since the time of President Mitterrand’s great projects, when some high-ranking public administrator never tired of snatching the future opera project from the Cité de la Musique at the Villette, any and all pretexts were deployed to delay the construction of the symphonic auditorium, wanted and fiercely defended by Pierre Boulez. It has finally come to pass, and the Philharmonie de Paris is here and successful (1.2 million visitors in the first year). At the other end of the capital, the Seine Musicale will consecrate the Ile Seguin to music and entertainment after a long history of labour and factory work, and having since seen many vicissitudes. This complex, carried by the departmental council of the Hauts-de-Seine, will be inaugurated next April. It was operated through a public-private partnership that should have (almost) no cost for the community: the private partners are building the hall and will operate it for thirty years, after which the site will return to the department. Hopefully this model will prove to be as virtuous as it appears.

The programming of musical Seine is still only partially known (see p. 5). But the fact that Jean-Luc Choplin is taking the reins after his success at the Théâtre du Châtelet bodes well. Therefore, we’ll have to wait until the spring to assess the programming and the acoustical success of these two new halls, one for classical music (1150 seats), the other an amphitheatre for shows (musicals, musical theater...) and other forms of music (4 000 to 6 000 places). Thus, in the space of a few years, we shall have passed from penury to abundance in concert halls, with - let us not forget - the opening of the auditorium at Radio France. The only regret will be the withdrawal of the Salle Pleyel of the conventional circuit, for competitive reasons. It reopens today after extensive work (although it had just been redone only ten years ago) to concentrate on pop music of "quality". Note that the question of competition with the Olympia or the Zenith has never been raised. It is hoped that supply creates demand and that the opening of the musical Seine will increase the audience of classical music.

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