A French Monument Stays Each Bit as Grand on Movie

Mr. Ivernel listed three scenes in the film that were shot in the Palais Garnier: the arrival of the Russian troops, which was shot in the large foyer; a conversation between Nureyev and a French dancer, recorded on the roof of Garnier, with a panoramic view of Paris; and footage from the event hall, filmed from the stage. The shooting of “The White Crow” coincided with the opera’s glamorous annual fundraising gala, to which Mr Ivernel was invited.

Overall, the shoot was a “wonderful experience,” said Ivernel. Before filming, the team was allowed to spend three half days backstage with the Paris Opera Ballet, where, interestingly, Nureyev became the ballet director in 1983. They met dancers, looked at rehearsals and visited the costume-making studios where tutus hang from the ceiling. It was “all very useful to the director,” said Ivernel, “because it gave him a much better sense of what it’s like to be a solo dancer.”

There was only one small misstep, recalled Marie Hoffmann, who is responsible for leasing public spaces in the opera. While the crew was filming at the opera house, Mr Fiennes, who plays a ballet master, settled in a recently restored armchair, a historic armchair that is usually kept behind a protective barrier. “We asked him as politely as possible to give up his seat,” recalls Ms. Hoffmann.

Filming in the opera is a complex process. Prior to the pandemic, shootings had to take place at night when there were no more performances or visitors, and nighttime affairs that ran from 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. when the premises were cleaned for morning tourists.

Since the building is a listed building, every corner is guarded and protected. As in Versailles and other French heritage sites, equipment cannot be placed directly on the floor: there must be a protective layer such as a strip of carpet. There are also weight restrictions on camera equipment, and crews are followed by security guards everywhere.