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The Bastille fortress was the symbol of absolutism before the French Revolution. Begun 1369, it was originally intended to augment the city's defenses, though by the 17th century it was being used as a prison. Voltaire and the Marquis de Sade were among its most famous inmates. Rumor and pamphleteers had for years disseminated a picture of its dungeons packed with wretched state prisoners. On July 13, 1789, exhorted "to arms" by a young lawyer, Camille Desmoulins, a mob gathered outside the Bastille, that frowning fortress whose guns were menacingly directed on the poor quarter of the Faubourg Saint Antoine which surrounded it. The frenzied crowd demanded the munitions that were stored within, while the Governor, the Marquis de Launay, promised not to fire unless attacked. On the following day, July 14, which marks the beginning of the French Revolution, the agitated crowd returned and filled the Bastille's outer courts, which had been left unguarded.
The Bastille Opera
In 1983, Carlos Ott's design was choosen among 750 other contestants for the design of a new opera house, which would be situated in the district of La Bastille. His design was characterised by its respect for the characteristics of the district, an inviting sight for the public by it's glass façade and the use of identicalmaterials inside and outside. The Opera Bastille was designed to make new concepts in scenery and stage decor fit together and for a new public.
You'll find art galleries clustered around rues Keller, Tamandiers and the adjoining stretch of rue de Charonne. And, on rue de Lappe, a very Parisian tradition : the "bals musettes", or dance halls of the1930s "gai Paris", frequented between the wars by Piaf, Jean Gabin and Rita Hayworth.
Day and Night Life
The rue de Lappe can still be as dodgy a place to be at night as it was in prewar days. The bouncers at clubs like the Chapelle des Lombards, and at Balajo itself, the heavy drug scene and the uneasy mix of local residents have taken the soul away from a street that ten years ago deserved the special affection that Parisians of all sorts gave it.
From Etoile Trocadero take metro 6 at Boissière to Charles de Gaulle Etoile and then line 1 to Bastille