Degas at the Opéra || Henri Loyrette

Edgar Degas was famously at home with the ballet and his paintings of dancers are among his most famous and loved works. He was, however, also fascinated by the Opéra de Paris and this book is devoted to this sometimes overlooked aspect of his work, to the extent that this is the first book to be devoted to the subject.

It is, it should be said, an exhaustive tome. If there was anything you want to know about the artist’s involvement with the institution, you’ll find it here. It doesn’t seem likely that the author has left any gaps for subsequent volumes to fill. That’s not by any means a bad thing, but it does make this very much a book for the specialist. The depth and authority of the research is impressive, as is the production. Some 100 major works in a wide variety of media are reproduced, along with preparatory sketches and drawings of the building’s furniture and fixtures. It amounts to something of an artistic documentary.

There’s really not a lot more that can be said. If you’re a Degas completist, or a fan of the Paris Opéra, you’ll want this and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The more general reader might baulk at the £45 price tag, but I don’t think the specialist would. Frankly, for a book of this extent and quality, it’s not even a huge amount.

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