Another landmark in Paris
, a city filled with great landmarks, is the Palais Garnier, also called the Opera Garnier, Opera de Paris or the Grand Opera House. Designed by the renowned Charles Garnier, this splendid structure is of the tradition of the Neo-Baroque style and is a grand masterpiece in architecture.
Completed in 1875, it is a tour de force for rococo, especially when you bear in mind that this was built during the glory days of the French Empire. Napoleon III ordered it built as part of the reconstruction project for Paris. Today, it is making a comeback as the premier place for ballet dances.
Opera Garnier is lavishly decorated with marble. You can see the fabulous sculpture of Carpeaux entitled the Dance. The façade includes rose-colored marble columns, winged figures and friezes as part of its embellishments.
Inside, take in the wonder of rainbow-colored marble pillars, gilded statues and vibrant mosaics. The lavishness is also evident in the gold leaf, velvet plus cherubs and nymphs decorating the auditorium. There is also a grand central chandelier that weighs more than six tons. Look up, and you will see that the ceiling is painted, by no less than Chagall. And wow, the Grand Staircase, which is made of marble, soars at a lofty 30 meters. The staircase leads to the different levels of the auditorium, as well as to the foyers.
The Opera Garnier covers an area of around 11,000 square meters. This makes Opera Garnier one of the largest operas in the world in terms of acreage. However, it only has a seating capacity of 2,200. Meanwhile, the stage is 60 meters high and has enough room for some 450 actors and singers. In fact, live horses have been set running on this rotating stage. Here, grand stage design, costumes and fancy music hold their sway. The combination is as fascinating now, as it was in the past. You can just imagine how the royalty and the who's who of France would sit on the plush chairs as they listen to a round of opera. Also envision how the crinolines of the best and brightest in fashion would brush as the rich and fabulous strolled through the foyers during intervals.
The Grand Foyer also features quite a number of chandeliers, as well as a ceiling adorned with a mosaic. There is also a library-museum that provides you with a breathtaking glimpse of three centuries' worth of opera. There are exhibitions, as well as drawing, photographs, paintings and scale models of sets.
And, so that you know, there actually is a lake underneath the Opera building. But before your imaginations run wild, there is no phantom roaming its waters. However, this lake was the inspiration for what was to become the hiding place of the phantom in Leroux's highly acclaimed play, Phantom of the Opera.
Undoubtedly, Opera Garnier is one of the most beautiful opera houses in history. In 2000, the opera was blessedly restored so that we now are filled with wonder at its original beauty. Indeed, a night at the Opera Garnier is one of the grandest and most elegant nights you will ever have. Some have compared it to the grandeur found in the corridors of Versailles.