Completed in 1913, the venue is one of the few major examples of Art Deco in Paris. It is the work of architect Auguste Perret, with an exterior bas relief by Antoine Bourdelle, a dome by Maurice Denis, paintings by Édouard Vuillard and a stage curtain by Xavier Roussel.
The theatre was founded by journalist and impresario Gabriel Astruc with a view to providing a venue suitable for contemporary music-making, dance and opera, unlike traditional, more conservative institutions such as the Paris Opera. Accordingly, it housed the Ballets Russes for its first season and consequently the world première of what many deem to be the most influential ballet and musical work of the twentieth century: the Rite of Spring.
Although the theatre is a private venture, it is sponsored by the Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations, which has owned the building since 1970.
Nowadays, the theatre shows about three staged opera productions a year, mostly baroque or small-orchestra pieces, in accordance with the moderate size of its stage and orchestra pit. In addition, it houses an important concert season. It is home to two orchestras: the Orchestre National de France and Orchestre Lamoureux, as well as the French base of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. The Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and Ensemble orchestral de Paris play most of their concerts there too. Some dance, chamber music, recital and pop events also take place at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées.
The same building also houses the smaller Comédie des Champs-Élysées theatre on the 3rd floor and the Studio des Champs-Élysées on the 5th floor. Yasmina Reza's 'Art' premiered on the Comédie stage in 1994, winning two Molières.
Prices can be very expensive for the main stage, and vary widely even for a particular event, from €5 for restricted visibility to €150 for the best seats (April 2006). Avenue Montaigne is one of the most exclusive streets in Paris; it is twinned with Madison Avenue in New York.
The theater, both the outside and the inside has been featured in the 1973 French espionage movie Le Silencieux, in a role somewhat similar to the one played by the Royal Albert Hall in Hitchcock's The Man Who Knew Too Much.