The Bastille fortress was the symbol of royal absolutism before the French Revolution. Built in 1369, it was originally aimed at improving the city's defenses, though by the 17th century it was being used as a jail. 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 St-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 chosen amongst 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 identical materials inside and outside. The Opera Bastille was designed to make new concepts in scenery and stage decor fit together (the three-dimensional sets that complete or replace the trompe-l'oeil of the baroque and romantic period) and for a new public. The Bastille opera house was opened by President François Mitterrand on July 13, 1989.
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 most famous bals musette,"The Balajo", rue de Lappe, was founded by Jo de France, who introduced glitter and spectacle into what were then seedy gangster dives, and brought Parisians from the other side of the city to savour the rue de Lappe lowlife.
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.