Palais Garnier is a Paris Opera House fit for an Emperor:
You don’t have to be an opera buff to appreciate the Palais Garnier which is also known as the Opéra de Paris or the Opéra Garnier, or more commonly referred to as the Paris Opéra. Located on the Place de l’Opéra in Paris’ 9th arondissement, this 1,900-seat neo-Baroque style opera house was built on the orders of Napoleon III and its grandeur is certainly fit for emperors.
As part of Napoleon III’s great Parisian reconstruction project carried out by Baron Haussmann, an opera house was to be built. A competition was launched for its design and this was won by Charles Garnier, an unknown 35-year-old architect.
Palais Garnier took fifteen years to complete (1860 to 1875) due to interruptions like the 1870 war and the fall of the Empire, but when it was inaugurated on 15 January 1875, it was regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time and probably still is today.
Main Features of Palais Garnier
Grand Staircase – The dramatic Staircase is one of the most famous features of the Palais Garnier. The double stairway leads to the foyers and to the different levels of the auditorium. As you walk up or down the staircase, picture the magnificence of its days when the upper-class and fashionable society women would brush past each other here and how grand it must have been to watch an opera performance.
The Foyers – Garnier designed the Grand Foyer to resemble the gallery of a classical chateau. The stunning and richly decorated foyers provide the audience with areas to stroll through during opera intervals. The mirrors and windows accentuate its vast dimensions and the magnificent ceiling paintings by Paul Baudry portray themes from the history of music.
Salon du Glacier – is at the end of the bar gallery. This room with a distinct 1900s feel was completed after the opening of the opera house.
Auditorium – In plush red and gold, the Auditorium is lit by the immense crystal chandelier hanging below Marc Chagall’s brightly coloured ceiling. This Italian-style horseshoe-shaped auditorium has 1,900 red velvet seats. We were lucky to have been here at a dress rehearsal and were able to see what it is like at performance time.
Gilded Baroque Extravaganza – Palais Garnier: Tour the Opera House by Video
At its inauguration, the opera house was officially named the Académie Nationale de Musique – Théâtre de l’Opéra . This was changed to Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris in 1978 and then renamed Palais Garnier when the opera company moved to the new Opéra Bastille in 1989. In spite of the Opéra Bastille now being the main Paris opera house, the Palais Garnier is still known by many people as the Paris Opéra, but I like Opéra Garnier. These days Palais Garnier is used for ballet and classical music performances. See what’s on and book tickets online here.
It’s worthwhile joining a guided tour of the Palais Garnier where the local guide will share with you all the treasures of the Opera Garnier. You can book your guided tour on-line here, or if you have the Paris Pass, it is one of the included attractions. The Opera Garnier runs guided tours in different languages, but bear in mind that these fill up very quickly as this is indeed an amazing place to visit.
Place de l’Opéra
Map of Paris: