The Paris National Opera Orchestra's roots date back to 1672, from which time the ensemble performed in about three productions a year under the leadership of Jean-Baptiste Lully
, music director from 1672-1687. Initially, it was a chamber-sized ensemble and by the early years of the 18th century, they were performing for ten or more productions yearly.
From 1776, the orchestra performed for ballet productions, which were introduced that year at the opera by Jean-Georges Noverre. Gradually the size of the ensemble grew as operatic and ballet productions increased. In the 19th century commissions were regularly offered to composers, and productions increased to 30 or more per year, with notable works by Donizetti
, and others.
Apart from a brief relocation to the Théatre Sarah Bernhardt and the Théatre des Champs Elysées in 1936-1937 for renovations, the opera company and orchestra began staging productions and concerts at the Palais Garnier from January 5, 1875, to the present.
In the 20th century there numerous memorable performances by the orchestra including the 1957 French premiere of Poulenc
's Dialogues of the Carmelites and the 1987 performance of Handel
's Julius Caesar, for which the ensemble performed on original instruments for the first time.
From 1989, the PNOO began performing at its second location, the Opera Bastille. The orchestra, having had such notable music directors as Louis Fourestier (1937-1965), Georges Prêtre
(1970-1971), and Alain Lombard
(1981-1983) was taken over by James Conlon
in 1995. After Conlon
's departure in 2004 the PNOO performed without a music director until the 2009 appointment of Philippe Jordan
. Among the PNOO's more acclaimed recordings is their 2007 Opus Arte
DVD of Tchaikovsky
's Swan Lake, with Vello Pähn conducting.