In 2014 the Grand-Théâtre in Bordeaux was open all summer for an exposition called Au-delà du miroir, which means “Beyond the mirror” or, as they translated it, “Through the looking glass”. The exposition was advertised as the last production of the Giulio Achilli, who is leaving Bordeaux after eighteen years as Technical Director of the National Opera.
The year before, Achilli had done another exposition called “Alice in the world of opera”, so this one was a sequel, so to speak, just as Lewis Carroll’s book Through the looking glass (1871) was a sequel to his earlier book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865).
In case anyone was in doubt about where the title of the expositions came from, one of the rooms had a full-size doll of Alice falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, as she did in Carroll’s first book.
(Confusingly, the translation of Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass that you can buy in French bookshops is not called Au-delà du miroir, but rather De l’autre côté du miroir.)
This room of the exposition is entitled “Perspective” and includes a chess set, to remind us of Alice moving around a fantastic countryside which is arranged like a gigantic chess set in the book Through the Looking Glass. Like many parts of the exposition, this installation was originally part of a stage set for an opera production, though I don’t know which one since I have never been to an opera performance in Bordeaux (yet).
Another full-size doll is this one of a workman in Salle Boireau. Actually it is only the top have of him, whereas . . .
. . . his legs are hanging from the ceiling on the floor below, where there is also a ladder leaning against one of the white stone columns to suggest how he might have climbed up there.
The auditorium or Grande Salle (Large Hall) could originally accommodate 1700 spectators, many of them standing, but subsequent renovations have reduced that number to 1114. Now they all have seats, and the seats are larger and have more leg room, simply because people are now larger than they were in the 18th and 19th centuries.
During the exposition Au-delà du miroir in the summer of 2014, the auditorium was illuminated in different colors in an ever-changing light show.
Two days after my first visit, I took a guided tour of the Grand-Théâtre with a guide from the city tourist office.
Though I did not learn anything strikingly new on this tour, it was still a pleasant experience because I could understand more or less everything the guide was saying (which is not always the case with my B2-level of French listening comprehension).
I tried to book the tour in the theater lobby, where they were selling tickets for the exposition Au-delà du miroir. But they told me that since the tour was organized by the city tourist office, I had to go there to get a ticket. Fortunately the tourist office is only a block away, on the street called Cours du 30 Juillet.
Location, aerial view and photo of the Grand-Théâtre on monumentum.fr.
Historical postcard views on Carthalia.
My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2019.
See also: The National Opera of Bordeaux.