Performing arts in Paris – also for english speakers

people at theater

France without performing arts is like roquefort without red wine, raclette without potatoes or foie gras without fig confiture: It’s just not as good as it could have been. But despite the thousands of foreigners living in France, finding theatre pieces or musicals for non-francophones is not always easy as most of them are (obviously) in French. However, English speakers don’t have to miss out on the cultural life in Paris. Theatres, musicals, cabarets and operas are all possible options, whether it is for yourself or for your guests from abroad!

It would be a pity if you miss out on all the theatre pieces and performances in Paris, just because your French is not fluent enough. Fortunately there are solutions for a big night out. Even if you – or your foreign guests – don’t speak a single word of French, you can still go to outstanding performances in some of the many charming theatres in Paris. Here are some great picks in Paris for francophones and anglophones alike:

1. Parisian theatres with subtitles

A few theatres in Paris make their performances accessible to non-French speakers with subtitles – or rather ‘surtitres’ as the translation is projected above the stage – in English. This allows for a French theatre experience in Paris with an audience that consists of both French and foreigners. At the moment, Theatre in Paris offers this service once a week (on Wednesdays) at the Théâtre de la Huchette (5th). Also, the Théâtre Mogador shows the musical The Lion King (Le Roi Lion) in French with English subtitles.

2. Theatre performances in English

Not all theatre performances are in French. One very successful one-man-show in English called How to become a Parisian in one hour has been running for 10 years. Here, Olivier Giraud explains in a hilarious way the behaviour of Parisians. Although it is obviously a bit stereotypical, the show guarantees a good laugh, plenty of situations that you will relate to, and a lot of audience interaction. One of the strong points is that the audience is typically mixed with both French and foreigners, so it doesn’t become a tourist performance. A must see for a fun night out in the Théâtre des Nouveautés (9th).

3. Cabaret: Moulin Rouge, Crazy Horse or Lido

No French required at the three famous cabarets in Paris: The Moulin Rouge, the Crazy Horse or Le Lido. It’s all about the mind-blowing can-can, the costumes and the unique atmosphere. A must-see for locals and tourists alike.

The three cabarets all provide for a great show and it is difficult to say which one is the best. What we can say is that they are slightly different in style: The Mouline Rouge is the most famous and the most classical cabaret. Le Lido is very similar to Mouline Rouge, but maybe a bit more glamourous. The Crazy Horse on the other hand is a bit more erotic than the other two, but undoubtedly very classy. All three cabarets are definitely worth it. If we really had to choose one, we at The French Life would probably go for the stylish performance in Le Lido.

Moulin Rouge cabaret show also for english speakers
The Moulin Rouge in Paris
4. Opera de Paris

Finally, another great pick for a classy night out is to go to the Parisian Opera. There are two opera houses in Paris. You have the Opera Bastille, the place for the famous opera performances, the blockbusters and the big performances in a modern building that can seat more than 2,500 persons. Then, there is the beautiful Opera Garnier that hosts some smaller opera performances throughout the year.

Whether the operas are in Italian, German, French or Russian, the translation is projected above the stage in French and in English. So even if you don’t fully master the language of Molière, you don’t have to miss out on these excellent opera performances or Parisian cultural life in general!

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