If you read any of my Seen Through the Phantom’s Eyes series, the importance of the Palais Garnier, also known as the Opéra Garnier is obvious.
Construction on the Palais Garnier was begun in 1861 and opened in 1875. The architect, Charles Garnier, was a young man who won a competition, from a field of 170; Napoleon III had a vision for redesigning the city by widening the streets and creating a new “look” for the City of Light, and this was part of it. Garnier’s opulent design reflected the Second Empire Beaux-Arts style, and presented ample opportunities to see and be seen. At this time in history, people did not go the the opera to look at the show, but to look at one another; the house lights were not even dimmed during the performance. Until 1881, when electricity was installed, the theatre used gaslight.
The auditorium itself is small in comparison to the size of the building, seating 1,979 people. In the auditorium, the central chandelier is now surrounded by a rondel painted by Marc Chagall; the original rondel is on display in the opera’s library.
When we were there in 2013, the main facade was in scaffolding for cleaning. However, the artist’s entrance in the rear was unobstructed, so I thought it would be fun to share that with you. The photos include the grand staircase, the lobby with yours truly, the Grand Gallery, the library, street signs for the two entrances and, of course, Box 5.
(Photos of the Opéra Garnier by the author.)