In 1860, french architect Charles Garnier won the contest organized by Napoleon III in order to provide a design for a new opera for Paris.
The outer parts were built from 1861 to 1870 and the opera inaugurated in 1875 (the gap was due to 'la Commune' revolution, during which the edifice was used as prison and storage rooms).
The overdecorated, mix of baroque, neo-classical and italian inspired style is typical of Napoleon III's era.
Since 1990 the Opera Garnier has a "baby brother" : the Opera Bastille where most of the lyric performances occur nowadays, while the ballets remain mainly in Garnier.
The Opera hosts a dance museum and can be visited between performances (the interior decoration is stunning (if somewhat pompous).
For performances, you can book on-line :
either directly from the Opera
or via FNAC
Thanks to the Andrew L. Webber's famous Musical, I've heard of a famous opera house in france that was built upon an enormous lake and haunted by an unhappy and ugly sod who loved stalking a singer called Christine. Well, this opera house was for real and it is as grand as described by Gaston Leroux (author of the Phantom) .
It's called Opera Garnier and was built in 1860. When I first saw it, my jaw dropped to the ground with a thud. The facade was majestic to say the least and richly ornamented with gold figures. But it wasn't the phantom that enticed me to enter the opera.
I wanted to see the painted frescos on the ceiling that was painted by the Russian painter, Marc Chagall in 1964. And who is Chagall? Well, he's the dude who did the romantic painting that was prized by Julia Roberts' character in Nottinghill. And I wasn't disappointed. The ceiling paintings were astounding and somehow, it went well with the pompous staircase, the grand chandeliers and facade of the grand interior.
On hindsight: Folks mentioned that this opera was an inspiration to the the opera built in Hanoi. But frankly, I don't see any semblance.
This landmark Opera by Charles Garnier is a wonderful example of classically based monumental style. It is hard to say it is the most beautiful building in the world, but it ranks very high on the list with its polychrome facade and lavish statuary, gilded in many cases. The interior is small (seating capacity of 2000-2500) which is why a new and larger opera house was built near the Bastille. But this one has multi-colored marbles and a grand staircase that makes even the most calloused gasp. Its ceiling was painted by Marc Chagall and is a work of art in itself. It is said that the seating was designed so that the audience could watch one another as well as the performance. Don't miss the lovely guilded bust of Garnier in front of the entrance. Click on the picture to view the whole front facade.
Unfortunately I haven't got the chance (I'd better say the time) to visit the Opera inside or to see a performance, but only seeing the building from outside is impressive enough to make an idea about how beautiful it is.
Taking the name from the unknown architect who won the contest for the new Opera project, Opera Garnier was inaugurated in 1875.
Its main facade, looking over Place d'Opera, is beautifully adorned with tall statues, while the interior is decorated with different colors of marble (white, red, blue, pink) from different parts of the country.
Opera Garnier in figures:
- surface: 11,237 sqm
- length: 173 m
- width: 125 m
- height: 73.6 m
- scene: 60 m height, 27 m depth, 48.5 m length
- seats: 2,200
The ballet I saw was fabuleux! Ecole de Danse, one of the most prestigious schools of dance in the world was the featured ballet; I feel very lucky to have seen them and have most likely watched future world-class ballet stars at their inception. Cool.
During intermission try a coupe de champagne - la di da (about 9€ April 2003 prices). It is such an ephemeral Parisian moment to drink champagne at the Opéra Garnier during intermission. However, you will not be allowed to take the glass back with you to your seat.
A very nice way to capture the memory of your time at the ballet and a reminder of who & what you saw is to buy a program (10€ - pricing 7 years ago).
Don't forget to peer up at the Marc Chagall ceiling (painted in 1964) ~ very colorful & otherworldly! You would think Chagall's modern & inimitable work would clash with the Opéra's original Second Empire Baroque style but somehow it works together beautifully.
If for some reason you did not manage to procure tickets to the Opéra before you came to Paris, you'll find there are people selling tickets (quite literally) at the door as you go in. However, prices are not guaranteed!
Also, I believe the best time to view this building in all her glory is at night (see photos).
Guided tours in English provided daily at 3pm.
Photos: November 2008
For me it’s one of the most beautiful building in Paris. Opera is designed by Charles Garnier. It’s in neo-baroque style and have 2 200 seat. When you come inside you will see the masterpiece reach grand staircase. Upon its inauguration in 1875, the opera house was officially named the Académie Nationale de Musique - Théâtre de l'Opéra. It retained this title until 1978 when it was re-named the Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris.
In 1860, when Napoleon III created a contest to find the architect that would build the new Paris opera house, 35-year-old Charles Garnier had very little to recommend him other than his imagination and skills; but to everyone's surprise, Garnier did win the contest and the new Opera house was inaugurated in 1875. The heavily ornamented building aligns several different styles, which Garnier himself called the "Napoleon III" style. L'Opera Garnier sits about 2,200 people and was the inspiration behind Gaston Leroux's famous novel "The Phantom of the Opera".
It is possible to visit the great staircase, the foyers, and the auditorium (when available) of the opera. Admission costs 8 Euros, and you cannot use your Museum Pass. For this reason we skipped on the visit and simply looked at the great staircase from the entry hall - but I do hope I get to see it all someday, and maybe see a production too!
It is best known as a performance venue, but the building itself sparkles after a recent cleaning.
The Garnier name is that of the architect Charles Garnier. We can thank Louis XIV for the various arts academies, but kudos to Napoleon III, who in 1858 got the ball rolling on the present building.
The Palais Garnier is one of my first sights on most visits to Paris as I take the Roissybus in from the airport that leaves you off behind the Opera Garnier.
In former days the Opera Garnier was named the Paris Opera, but since the building of the Opéra Bastille in 1989, the name of this opera is Opéra Garnier.
Opera Garnier, built in neo-baroque style, is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time. This opera is designed as part of the great Parisian reconstruction of the Second Empire under Baron Haussmann. There was a competition which was won by the that time still unknown 35-year-old architect Charles Garnier. The foundation stone was laid in 1861.
In 1978 I visited the operahouse to watch an opera of Wagner. It was a very unique experience. I was impressed by the building, the abundant decorations, the steep steps to the seats very high in the back of the hall.... and not in the last place by the bombastic performance with real galopping horses at the stage.
One of the horsemen fell down from his horse during the performance and disappeared invisible behind one of the décors, while 'the show went on'. As spectators we didn't know what happened to him, but one of my colleagues, who walked at the backside of the building around that time, told me later that he saw that a man was carried into an ambulance. So I suppose the man problably crawled away from the stage himself, unvisible for the audience.
designed for napoleon III by charles garnier the paris opera is one of the most beautiful buildings in paris. the building's unique appearance is due a mixture of architectural styles ranging from classical to baroque. underneath the building is a small lake which was the inspiration for the phantom's hiding place in leroux's "phantom of the opera" the opera has moved to the modern opera bastille but the ballet is still performed here.
One of the world's largest opera theatre contains more than 2000 spectators. This is one of the most beautiful buildings of Paris, constructed in the XIXth century, amazes with an abundance of decorative elements, characteristic for that epoch.
If you are one of the cultured ones you will get all dressed up to go see one of the most famous opera houses in the world. Well at least until 1989 it was home of the opera and ballet, now it is mainly ballet.
The opulence of the Palais Garnier is stunning. The stage can hold about 450 artists, and the Palais has room for about 1,979 spectators. The enormous chandelier which weighs 7 tons and is made of bronze and crystal.
The latest round of major remodelling and restoration was completed in 2007
All you loyal readers of my Halle page (thanks again to both of you!) will recall that there I talked about the great opera composer Georg Friedrich Händel, who was born in Halle in the year 1685. His birth house and several adjoining buildings have been nicely renovated and now form the Händel House and Music Museum of the City of Halle, along with the Center for Händel Research. After eighteen years in Halle, three in Hamburg and four in Italy, Händel settled in London where he wrote most of his forty operas, thirty oratorios and hundreds of other musical works.
In February 2011 at the Opéra Garnier in Paris I saw a fine performance of Händel's sixteenth opera Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) which he composed in London in 1724. This is only the sixth Händel opera I have seen, out of forty or so that he composed -- I have described these six in one of my Halle tips called Händel as an opera composer.
Even though Händel was originally German and lived most of his adult life in England, his operas were all in Italian, simply because Italian was the main language of opera in those days (just as English is the main language of pop music today).
This opera Giulio Cesare takes place in Egypt in the year 48 B.C. and has to do with Caesar's Egyptian war and his love affair with Cleopatra.
As it was staged in Paris, however, the opera took place in the storeroom of a museum (I suppose the Louvre), where some of the statues came to life and started re-living their quarrels and love affairs of 2,059 years before. This is not exactly a new idea -- I once saw Verdi's Aida staged this way at the State Theater in Berlin -- but I thought it worked very well.
Second photo: Program of Händel's opera Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar). The picture on the cover of this opera program is part of a famous painting called "Cleopatra Testing Poisons on Condemned Prisoners" by Alexandre Cabanel, painted in 1887. Less than half the painting (around 40 %) appears on the cover. Visible in the original painting, but not here, are two prisoners dying horrible deaths from poisons that are being tried out on them.
Third photo: Statue of the composer Georg Friedrich Händel in the lobby of the Opéra Garnier.
Update: I have also seen this opera several times in Frankfurt am Main, in a marvelous production with the American soprano Brenda Rae as Cleopatra.
To be honest this last trip I bought tickets for a ballet performance I knew I wouldn't like just to get inside the building again! Here are some of my new pictures of the incredibly elegant and detailed decorations of the auditorium and other public spaces.
This is the largest theatre in the world. Built between 1862-1875 by architect Charles Garnier. Its architecture is a mixture of baroque, classical, Greek and Napoleonic styles. Gold bust of famous composers adorn the front facade of the building. It is possible to take tours through the building when there is no performance.