Palais Garnier (Opéra de Paris) 1892

Palais Garnier Paris 1892

GRAND OPERA HOUSE PARIS — This is not merely one of the most magnificent structures of the French metropolis, but is the largest theatre in the world; not strictly so in regard its seatlug capacity, which accommodates about 2200 people, but in the area of three acres which it occupies in the very heart of the city. The first view of it as one approaches it along the Boulevards can never be forgotten. Broad marble steps lead up to a facade adorned with groups of statuary representing Lyric Poetry, Idyllic Poetry, Music, Declamation, Song and Dance. Above these are medallions of four great composers, and over these extends along the full width of the structure a Loggia or gallery embellished with beautiful Corinthian monolithic columns and a marble parapet. Above the windows of this Loggia the eye beholds with pleasure medallion busts, in gilded bronze, of Mozart, Beethoven, Auber, Rossini, Meyerbeer and Halevy, whose noble works are heard so frequently within the Temple of Music which they thus adorn. To right and left upon the roof colossal groups in gilded bronze stand radiantly forth against the sky, portraying the divinities of Poetry and Music with the muses in their train. While to complete the charm of this extraordinary building, there rises in the center a majestic dome above the crown of which we see, triumphant over all, the statue of Apollo holding aloft a golden lyre, which still reflects the splendor of the setting sun long after evening has begun to spread its shadows over the adjacent streets, which soon will burst forth from that temporary twilight into a blaze of artificial brilliancy almost as light as day, which makes the place of the Grand Opera seem like the diamond-clasp in that long belt of gaiety, display and fashion known as the Parisian Boulevards. (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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