Located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Place des Artes is the city’s largest arts and culture complex. Situated between Saint Catherine Street and De Maisonneuve Boulevard in Montreal’s downtown area, it is home to many of the city’s major performance organizations, including the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Opéra de Montréal, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens.
Place des Artes was conceived in the 1950s as part of mayor Jean Drapeau’s initiative to expand the city’s downtown area. Drapeau, a noted lover of opera, began initial plans for the facility in 1955, and the Corporation George-Étienne-Cartier was set up in 1958 to oversee its construction. The complex’s first theater, the Grande Salle, later renamed the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in honor of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s founder, was inaugurated on September 21, 1963. Subsequent performance venues and a contemporary art museum have been added progressively to the complex since the 1960s.
The complex is home to six theatrical halls of various sizes, with capacity totaling 7,787 seats across all venues. The Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier is the largest venue, with nearly 3,000 seats and a state-of-the-art sound system. In addition to being the official home of Opéra de Montréal and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, its season lineup includes Broadway musicals, concerts, and other major national and international touring events. Additionally, the venue is an annual host for the major performances of the renowned Montreal Jazz Festival.
The 1,453-seat Théâtre Maisonneuve is a modern take on an Italian-style theater, with a large multifunctional stage and 45-seat orchestra pit. Named for Montreal’s founder, Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the venue was the second theater added to the complex, inaugurated in 1967. In addition to theatrical productions and benefit evenings for the complex’s home organizations, the venue is also equipped with projection equipment to present films.
Opened in 2011, the Montreal Symphony House, also known as the Maison Symphonique, is a classical music hall that is the primary home of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. The 2,100-seat hall is built to exacting international specifications to provide audiences with the best possible audio and visual experience for enjoying musical performances. In addition to the Symphony Orchestra, the McGill Chamber Orchestra, Orchestre Métropolitain, I Musici de Montréal, Les Violons du Roy, and Pro Musica Society ensembles also perform frequently at the venue.
Formerly known as Théâtre Port-Royal, the Théâtre Jean-Duceppe is the home for the DUCEPPE theater company’s season, which runs from September through May. The 765-seat venue also hosts a number of lecture series, galas, and dance shows, and is the annual home of the Festival TransAmériques theater and dance festival. Two other small venues round out the complex, the versatile Cinquième Salle, which can be configured for a variety of contemporary, dance, and multimedia presentations, and the intimate Salle Claude-Léveillée hall, which hosts annual songwriting competitions and stand-up comedy festivals.
In addition to its theater halls, the Place des Artes is also home to an outdoor amphitheater venue, the Amphithéâtre Fernand-Lindsay. The 6,000-capacity venue is the host for Canada’s largest classical musical festival, the Festival de Lanaudière, as well as pop and rock concerts and outdoor film screenings. The public Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme hall features an exhibition room, which showcases the behind-the-scenes workings of the complex’s arts companies, as well as a large digital screen mosaic created by designer Érick Villeneuve. Also part of the complex is the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, a contemporary art museum that opened in 1992.
Outside, the Esplanade de la Place des Arts connects all the complex’s venues. Adorned with fountains and water cascades, the esplanade is a major public gathering space for the city and a highlight of its Quartier des spectacles district. It is host to some of Montreal’s largest annual festivals, including the Montreal Jazz Festival, the French-language music festival Les FrancoFolies, the Just For Laughs comedy festival, and Montréal en Lumière, one of the largest winter festivals in the world.
Several restaurants in the complex offer before-and-after-show service, including the Place Deschamps bar and lounge, the bistro-style Restaurant Le Seingalt, and Havre-aux-glaces, serving ice cream, sorbet, and other desserts. The complex is also directly connected via the RÉSO Underground City tunnel system to the Complexe Desjardins, a mall featuring more than 110 boutiques and restaurants. Many other restaurants, shops, and venues are located nearby in the vibrant Quartier des spectacles district, which incorporates tiered green space, illuminated fountains and walkways, and mist machines to create a unique city center experience.
The complex is accessible from downtown via the Place-des-Arts Metro station, as well as several STM bus lines and BIXI bike stations.