By Susan Brodie: Toi Toi Toi!
After many years, Paris is almost ready to open a new state-of-the-art concert hall, the Philharmonie de Paris, on the campus of the Cité de la Musique in the northeast corner of the city. Jean Nouvel’s huge edifice, whose swooping curves are still under construction, dominates the outer edge of Bernard Tschumi’s campus which since the 1980s has occupied the site of the 19th century municipal wholesale meat market and slaughterhouse. With its music museum, the Paris Conservatory and the adjoining Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, a kind of super-science museum, the man-meets-nature green spaces and canals are a popular urban oasis in this gritty corner of Paris. The new audience-friendly 2400 seat concert hall was to be the jewel in the crown, meant to entice a larger public to this evolving working class neighborhood.
But the Philharmonie project has been far from harmonious. Staggering cost overruns and longer-than-usual delays aren’t the only reasons for grumbling: well-heeled concert-goers from the city’s western arrondissements and suburbs are accustomed to the chic and convenient Salle Pleyel, a beautiful if acoustically flawed Art Deco theater on the Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré in the 8th district. The Parc de la Villette is at least a half-hour further to the northeast, served by a single subway line. To guarantee audiences for the new hall, the Cité de la Musique stipulated that no classical performances would be given at the Salle Pleyel for a period of fifteen years.
Now there’s a new wrinkle: as reported by France Musique and Le Figaro, an administrative judge has frozen the non-compete conditions of the hall concession. Hubert Martigny, the hall’s owner from 1998 to 2009, had sold the Salle Pleyel to the City of Paris for 60.5 million euros. His ex-wife, Carla Maria Tarditi, former artistic and general manager of the hall, is claiming that he sold the property at a steep discount in order to remove it from the marital property in advance of divorce proceedings. An independent appraisal submitted by Mme. Tarditi values the Salle Pleyel at 110 million euros.
As the rental revenues from Salle Pleyel’s prospective non-classical concessioner were to constitute a portion of the Philharmonie’s operating budget, it remains to be seen how this will play out. The Tribunal is expected to render its decision about the legality of the sale in two months, but don’t count on this to be settled before the Philharmonie’s January 14th opening date.
The Cité de la Musique responded with a statement indicating its stupefaction with this turn of events. They are appealing the decision, hoping for a reversal that will permit them to sign with a concessionaire who will operate the Salle Pleyel as a non-classical venue.