A few weeks ago, I reviewed Tatiana de Rosnay's book The House I Loved, the story of a woman devastated by the threat of relocation for the modernization of Paris by Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann. Since then, I have thought of the story often. Paris is a beautiful city, and one that I love, but it is the 'new' city we now know. Looking back through photographs, I realized that we owe Haussmann for the lovely Opéra de Paris, which was built under his direction and completed in 1875. I thought I'd share some more photos of this breathtaking building while Rosnay's story is still lingering in my mind.
The Opéra de Paris, also commonly known as the Palais Garnier, is home to the Pairs Opera. Today, opera performances are actually held in the newer Opéra Bastille while ballet performances are held in the Palais Garnier. The building also houses the Paris Opera Library Museum. It is built in the Beaux-Arts style, which can be seen in the symmetry of the floor plan and its exterior ornamentation. Its main features are the Grand Staircase, Grand Foyer which opens into the Salon de la Lune and the Salon du Soleil, and the horseshoe shaped Auditorium famous for its ceiling painted by Chagall. The interior is very ornate and gilded. It is also very dark so that the the beautiful sconces and chandeliers can be seen in their full glory.
If you are familiar with the extravagant decor of Versailles, then you have an idea of how overwhelmingly beautiful and gaudy the Palais Garnier can be. Photos just don't do the space justice! Every inch is covered in gilded carvings, fine statues, elegant drapes and such exquisite chandeliers. I love the one above of the woman with lights on her head. Isn't she almost Steampunk,with her robotic looking arms?!
The building may be most famously known for having inspired Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera. Today, we think of the musical production by Andrew Lloyd Webber, but this was truly the story of the Palais Garnier and it's spectacular 7-ton bronze chandelier which hangs in the Auditorium. On May 20, 1896, a counterbalance on the chandelier broke free and burst through the ceiling and into the theater and killed a member of the audience. Leroux was so captivated by the true-life events, that he wrote his interpretation of the scene into his dramatic love story. When I visited the Palais Garnier, the Auditorium was closed to the public for a rehearsal. I was sad to miss seeing Chagall's ceiling and the celebrated chandelier, but loved seeing the rest of this over-the-top building that is so steeped in the history and culture of Paris. I can't help but think of the fictional Madame Rose and the other real-life people that had to watch their homes be demolished to make room for Haussmann's vision for a new Paris. But, oh, what a lovely city their sacrifice left for us all to enjoy!