As one of the most famous opera houses in the world, and a symbol of Paris, we definitely had to see the Opéra Garnier on one of our trips to Paris. 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 or just the Opéra.
It was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III and built between 1862 and 1875 by Architect Charles Garnier. The façade, monumental stairs, and Italian type hall with Chagall paintings on the ceiling, make it one of the world most beautiful opera houses. Some state that is it notoriety is due to Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and, others say it was more due to the novel's subsequent adaptations in films and Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular 1986 musical. Whatever the reason, it is unquestionably a masterpiece of art.
Another marvel of the Opera Garnier is its 1964 ceiling by Marc Chagall. The ceiling represents the arts of opera and ballet. The ceiling, controversial at the time of its creation, is now widely acclaimed and a Chagall masterpiece. However, I would have to say the highlight is the 7-ton bronze and crystal chandelier which was designed by Garnier.
I love marble and one of the main features of the Opera is the large ceremonial staircase. Made of white marble with a balustrade of red and green marble, it divides into two divergent flights of stairs that lead to the Grand Foyer. It is truly amazing and beautiful. The pedestals of the staircase are decorated with female torchéres, created by Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, and the ceiling above the staircase was painted by Isidore Pils to depict The Triumph of Apollo.
As stated above, the stairs lead to the Grand Foyer which is 18 meters high, 154 meters long, 13 meters wide and was designed to act as a drawing room for Paris society. It was restored in 2004. Its ceiling was painted by Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry and represents various moments in the history of music.
The auditorium and stage are also pieces of art. To start with the stage is the largest in Europe and can accommodate as many as 450 artists, it has a traditional Italian horseshoe shape, can seat 1,979, and the canvas house curtain was painted to represent a draped curtain, complete with tassels and braid.
A note of interest: The French Post Office has issued two postage stamps on the building: The first was issued in September 1998, for the centenary of the death of Charles Garnier. It was designed by Claude Andréotto grouping elements which recall the artistic activities of the Opera Garnier: the profile of a dancer, a violin and a red curtain. The second, drawn and engraved by Martin Mörck, is issued in June 2006 and represents, in intaglio, the main facade.
I really enjoyed visiting the Opera much better than the Palace of Versailles. We weren't rushed, and I felt like we were able to really enjoy it. We even ate at a little restaurant right across it to enjoy the outside view a little more. I do have to mention that there were cops everywhere directing traffic (as it is a crazy intersection where it is located) and they kept blowing a whistle that was quite annoying and distracting. Other than that it was a great day and a great visit. I would love to go back someday and see some kind of performance. It is a magnificent venue.