Probably the most famous opera house in the world, Opera Garnier, or Palais Garnier, is one of the most impressive landmarks in Paris and symbolises Second Empire opulence. So much so that it was nicknamed the Palais Garnier a name which has stuck over the years, overthrowing its original name Salle des Capucines.
Commissioned in 1861 by Napoleon III, Charles Garnier, the Opera house was nothing short of an architectural delight – no doubt influenced by the beaux-arts. With eclectic designs and extravagant interiors, the opera house was a hit and complimented by top performers and prima ballerinas the crowds came in the hordes.
Give them light
The famous chandelier which hangs from the ceiling of the Opera Garnier weighs a staggering 7 tonnes of pure bronze and crystal, and was designed by Garnier himself. However, because it was so large it was unpopular with some as it obstructed the view of those who sat in the fourth level boxes and it obstructed the view of the ceiling painted by Eugène Lenepveu. Unfortunately in the late 1890s, the counterweight of the chandelier burst through the ceiling, killing a member of the audience. This was comically drawn on in the famous novel by Gaston Leroux, Phantom of the Opera, which drew heavily on influences from the famous Opera House.
Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera was written by Gaston Leroux in 1910 and was partly inspired by real events that happened at the grand Palais during the late 19th century, and a legendary tale about a ballerina’s skeleton being uncovered… Now, the tale is more famously told in the form of a musical onstage thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s adaption. It’s a gripping tale of romance and mystery and well worth a watch – even if it’s only just a faint nod towards the Parisian influence.
The Opera Garnier is a true masterpiece of “classicism and eccentricity”. Even Garnier himself described the building’s façade as having “perfect elegance” with a design that established a movement that was “boldly moving forward”. His main façade was designed as a theatre set, dedicated to lyric art with arcades and stone columns, and other elements of the building are adorned with elaborate carvings, statues and sculptures.
The auditorium itself is a sight to behold – and will blow any other theatre or opera house you’ve seen before completely out of the water. This plush rich blood red and gold decorated seating area can house 2,013 people with undeniable ‘French’ elegance and opulence.
Even the stage is a masterpiece and one-of-a-kind, at 60m high and nearly 50m wide it is one of the world’s biggest stages and, to put it to scale, the entire Comédie-Francaise theatre can fit within the Palais Garnier stage house alone.
There’s no doubt that during your visit to Paris you must see the Opera House. As one of the finest examples of Baroque style and complete over-the-top elegance, you can’t help but feel the luxury that Charles Garnier set out to achieve.
With the Paris Pass you can get a free tour of the Palais Garnier, saving you €14.00. Plus, you can also get free entry into the top museums in Paris, art galleries and attractions with the complete package – not to mention a travelcard. Find out more, here…