One can easily imagine the much-in-demand soprano Elza van den Heever being based in London, New York, Vienna, Paris or Berlin. But Bordeaux is home to the Johannesburg native, who triumphed as Elisabetta in Maria Stuarda at the Metropolitan Opera last season; sings the title role of Norma this month with Canadian Opera Company; and makes her debut in December at the Vienna State Opera singing Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes. Van den Heever has a special affection for this city in southwestern France, and for Opéra National de Bordeaux, where she made her house and role debut as Elettra in Idomeneo in 2008 and has been reengaged for major role debuts including Alcina, Anna Bolena and Norma.
The Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, a neoclassical construction designed by Victor Louis and considered his masterpiece, opened in 1780. Directly across from the opera stands the luxurious Grand Hôtel, which van den Heever recommends to visitors ready to splurge. The terrace of its fashionable brasserie, Le Bordeaux, is unrivaled—especially in warm weather—for people-watching and a glass of rosé. For a “good, reliable, affordable hotel,” the soprano suggests the Hôtel Majestic, in an eighteenth-century townhouse on Rue de Condé, down the street from the theater’s stage entrance. The Brasserie L’Orléans, nearby, on the broad Place de Quinconces, is popular with opera colleagues. She favors Paus’k, a small spot with an array of prepared takeaway foods, ideal for lunch breaks on the steps of the opera house.
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