This is my nomination for the world’s most beautiful concert venue, the 13th century Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité in the center of Paris.
On many evenings there are two one-hour concerts here, the first at 19:00 (7.00 pm) and the second at 20:30 (8.30 pm). I chose the first concert in hopes that there would still be ample sunlight shining through the amazing stained-glass windows (which there was).
When I went in 2008, my ticket cost € 25, plus a commission because I bought it ahead of time at one of the fnac stores. As of 2020, tickets to these concerts cost 40 Euros each. This is not cheap for a sixty-minute concert (you can see an entire opera in Paris for less than that), but perhaps still worth it, considering you can sit for an hour in this fantastically beautiful Gothic building listening to brilliant music played by soloists from the leading French orchestras.
The chamber music concert I attended at the Sainte-Chapelle was by the Orchestre Les Archets de Paris, a chamber music ensemble that was founded in 1992, composed mainly of solo musicians from the National Orchestra of the Paris Opera or the National Orchestra of France. Their program started with two short pieces by Vitali (1644-1692) and J. Pachelbel (1653-1706), followed by the complete “Four Seasons” by Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741).
As I have mentioned elsewhere, Vivaldi’s concerto “The Four Seasons” from the year 1723 is a staple of tourist concerts all over Europe, and I think for some of the musicians it must get quite stale after a while. I’m sure Vivaldi himself would have been astounded if he had known that his “Four Seasons” would still be so popular three centuries after he wrote it, while his many operas and choral works remain in relative obscurity.
Here in Paris, as in a concert I had attended in Verona two years before, they at least played “The Four Seasons” in its entirety, all four movements, not just one or one-and-a-half as in the daily tourist concerts in Prague, Vienna or Salzburg.
Like his close contemporary Georg Friedrich Händel, Vivaldi was not only a composer but also an opera impresario. He claimed to have composed 94 operas, but only 46 have been identified and only 20 are still extant, at least in part. I have only seen one of his operas so far, Orlando Furioso, in two different productions: first in Darmstadt in 2002 in a staging by Rosamund Gilmore (with lots of dancing, as in all her productions), and later in Frankfurt as staged by David Bösch in 2010 and revived in 2014. Both of these were colorful productions with energetic young casts.
After the concert at the Sainte-Chapelle, the conductor and violin soloist Christophe Guiot came to the back of the chapel to sign CD booklets.
Another advantage of attending an evening concert is that you can have a good look at the inside of the Sainte-Chapelle without waiting in the long queue that tends to form during the day.
Unfortunately, your Museum Pass will not speed up your entry to the Sainte-Chapelle because there is only one line — and a sign in French politely asking Museum Pass holders to se patienter in the same queue along with everybody else.
Location and aerial view of the Sainte-Chapelle on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2008. I revised the text in 2020.