Inauguration of the Paris Opera in 1875 by Édouard Detaille 1878

Paris Opera Inauguration
Inauguration of the Paris Opera in 1875 by Édouard Detaille 1878 ( Collections of the Château of Versailles)

INTERIOR OF GRAND OPERA HOUSE PARIS — If the exterior of this Temple of Music be imposing, the interior is dazzling. On a gala night the sight of its grand staircase, its balconies, corridors and magnificent foyer, can never be forgotten. One pauses in bewilderment at the foot of this “Stairway of Honor.” The steps are of white marble, the balustrades of alabaster, the hand-rail of African onyx. Twenty-four colored marble columns rise to the height of the third floor. The ceiling glows with brilliant frescoes. Superb bronze groups surround us, bearing globes of light. At the head of the first landing, a doorway, flanked by enormous figures of Tragedy and Comedy, leads inward to the amphitheatre and orchestra. The pavements are of exquisite mosaic. The auditorium is open to the criticism of an excessive amount of gilded ornamentation, but the foyer, or promenading hall, is of extraordinary splendor. It is 177 feet long and 60 feet in height, and with its gilded columns, statues, paintings, marble chimney-pieces and colossal mirrors, presents an appearance unsurpassed in any theatre in the world. The cost of this building, apart from that of its site, was about seven millions of dollars. It was begun in 1861 and opened in 1875, from the designs and under the directions of Garnier, whose name will thus be forever associated with the most gorgeous opera house that the world has yet produced. (from John L. Stoddard, Glimpses of the world; a portfolio of photographs of the marvelous works of God and man – 1892)


The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was originally called the Salle des Capucines, because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier, in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. The theatre is also often referred to as the Opéra Garnier and historically was known as the Opéra de Paris or simply the Opéra, as it was the primary home of the Paris Opera and its associated Paris Opera Ballet until 1989, when the Opéra Bastille opened at the Place de la Bastille. The Paris Opera now mainly uses the Palais Garnier for ballet.

The Palais Garnier is “probably the most famous opera house in the world, a symbol of Paris like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, or the Sacré Coeur Basilica.” This is at least partly due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and, especially, the novel’s subsequent adaptations in films and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular 1986 musical. Another contributing factor is that among the buildings constructed in Paris during the Second Empire, besides being the most expensive, it has been described as the only one that is “unquestionably a masterpiece of the first rank.” This opinion is far from unanimous however: the 20th-century French architect Le Corbusier once described it as “a lying art” and contended that the “Garnier movement is a décor of the grave”.

The Palais Garnier also houses the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra de Paris (Paris Opera Library-Museum). Although the Library-Museum is no longer managed by the Opera and is part of the Bibliothèque nationale de France, the museum is included in unaccompanied tours of the Palais Garnier. (from Wikipedia)

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