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  • Day28

    Oct 17 - Palais Garnier

    October 17, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Our mission for today was to tour the Palais Garnier. It is a 1,979-seat opera house and one of the Paris National Opera's two home venues in the city along with Opéra Bastille. It was built from 1861 to 1875 upon a commission of Emperor Napoleon III. The venue soon became known as the Palais Garnier, "in acknowledgment of its extraordinary opulence" and the architect Charles Garnier's plans and designs, which are representative of the Napoleon III style. The Paris National Opera now uses the Palais Garnier mainly for ballet.

    The Palais Garnier is probably the most famous opera house in the world. This is at least partly due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and to the popularity of subsequent film and stage adaptations. Another contributing factor is that among the buildings constructed in Paris during the Second Empire, besides being the most expensive, it has been described as the only one that is "unquestionably a masterpiece of the first rank.” Its theatre is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful theatres.

    I had arranged for us to go on a guided tour so we could get all the behind-the-scene stories. Our guide was Nicholas who ably led us on a 1.5 hour tour of discovery. This place is a bedazzled, opulent, eclectic, allegorical, over-the-top, giddy mix of ornate styles. The main purpose for the building was not to satisfy artistic reasons, but for the incredibly rich and idle to be seen several times a week at the opera. They, in essence, were the actors and actresses in an ever-changing story of lust, intrigue, influence and power. The emperor had his own personal entrance where his carriage could enter the building and ensure his safety from the lower class, disenchanted citizens. The grand staircase allowed the rich to parade in dressed in elegant costumes that were made specially for opera nights. The Salon, originally intended as a smoking room for men only until women demanded access at the building’s opening, is a long gallery filled with fabulous mosaic floors and an ornate ceiling featuring themes from the history of music. The opera auditorium is a sea of red velvet, gold paint, stucco and marble. The bronze and crystal chandelier which did NOT fall down (although a counter weight did kill a concierge) is a magnificent piece of art. It hangs below a ceiling (installed on a removable frame) designed and painted by Marc Chagall. The original ceiling, painted by Jules Lepenveu, still exists but is hidden from view. The entire Arc de Triomphe would fit onto the stage so huge, bold productions could be presented. The place is a wonder to see - put it on your list of things to do if you are ever in Paris.
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