LEAFYPAGE

A French Monument Remains Every Bit as Grand on Film

Mr. Ivernel listed three scenes in the movie that were shot at the Palais Garnier: the arrival of the Russian troupe, filmed in the grand foyer; a conversation between Nureyev and a French dancer, shot on the Garnier rooftop, with panoramic views of Paris; and shots of the performance hall, filmed from the stage. Filming of “The White Crow” coincided with the opera’s glamorous annual fund-raising gala, to which Mr. Ivernel was invited.

The shoot was, on the whole, a “wonderful experience,” Mr. Ivernel said. Before filming, the team was allowed to spend three half-days backstage with the Paris Opera Ballet where, interestingly, Nureyev would become ballet director in 1983. They met dancers, watched rehearsals and visited the costume-making ateliers, where tutus hang from the ceiling. It was “all very useful for the director,” Mr. Ivernel said, “because it gave him a much better sense of what it was like to be a principal dancer,.”

There was just one minor misstep, recalled Marie Hoffmann, who is in charge of rental of public spaces at the opera. While the crew was busy filming inside the opera house, Mr. Fiennes, who plays a ballet master, settled into a recently restored fauteuil, a period armchair usually kept behind a protective barrier. “We asked him, in the politest way possible, to give up the seat,” Ms. Hoffmann recalled.

Filming inside the opera is a complex process. Before the pandemic, shoots had to happen at nighttime, when there were no more performances or visitors, and they were all-night affairs, running from 11 p.m. until 9 a.m., when the premises were cleaned for morning tourists.

Because the building is a listed national monument, every corner of it is guarded and protected. As at Versailles and other French heritage sites, equipment cannot be placed directly on the floor: There must be a layer of protection such as a strip of carpeting. There are weight restrictions on camera equipment as well, and crews are followed everywhere by security.

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