At nine euros to enter this place it was the best investment of our Paris vacation. The Grand Opera is one of the most beautiful examples of architecture in the World.
For one of the most significant places, this one also has an exciting story of its creation. The Emperor Napoleon III narrowly escaped death during the terrorist act in front of the Opera at La Pelletier Street. Physically he was fine, but mentally hardly damaged. There was no way for him to visit that scary place at La Pelletier again.
What else was there to do for fun in 1858? There was no internet, TV or Improv shows at that time. He still had some days off even though he was full time emperor. Therefore, it was announced that there would be a contest for the best new opera house project design.
Building a main opera house is a very prestigious job. I’m sure, a bunch of outstanding architects took up the challenge, but I failed to find their names. May be I didn’t try hard enough or may be they bribed chroniclers to omit them in this particular situation in order to escape shame. Slightly known was Charles Garenier, who had set aside all well-known rivals. The reason was that his creation was not only gorgeous but also pretty safe with separate gates for emperors carriage to allow it to go directly inside the building.
By the way, do you see the shadow in the center of the next photo? The Phantom of the Opera is here…
The Grand Opera was finished in 1875. 15 years after the construction began. It’s amazing how the eclectic, highly decorated interior can be breathtakingly glorious and even elegant.
The Central Stairs are fabulous. We were not able to speak when we saw it for the first time; we were just standing in front of their splendor with our jaws dropped all the way to shiny marble floor. To create this mind-blowing beauty tons of white, red and green marble, onyx and jasper were used. Four masterpieces, “The Gods of Olympus”, “Apollo in His Chariot”, “Triumph of Harmony”, and “Apotheosis of the Opera”, were painted on the ceiling. Their creator French master Isidore Pils died the same year they were completed.
The Grand Opera proves its name not only with enormously rich decoration. It’s the biggest opera house in the World at 564 feet long, 410 feet deep and 240 feet long. Only ⅓ of it is in the surface. The construction goes deep underground, somewhere where the Phantom might still live.
When the development began, huge underground lake was discovered. For safety reasons, the building obtained two foundations and a reservoir filled with underground water in case of fire. This exact hidden lake described in the Gaston Leroux novel “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Almost 2000 people can take their seats in the ornate red and gold auditorium to watch a live show; however you had better think about tickets several weeks before. The biggest European stage can accommodate as many as 450 artists. And still we can see only a small part of it. Stage deepens to 140 feets with all decoration storages and other utility space. Unfortunately visitors can’t have even a small glimpse to that mysterious depth, but can be amazed by the spectacular ceiling with Marc Chagall’s gorgeous painting and 17,000 pound bronze and crystal chandelier.
Every evening on Broadway in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical a small replica of this chandelier falls down toward frightened viewers. In reality the tragedy occurred on May 20, 1896. The facts of the case are still not clear. We know for certain that the chandelier was damaged and one of its counterbalances did fall down and literally tear poor 56-year-old porter Mme. Chommet asunder. Newspapers showed zero tolerance for this horrible accident, printing the headlines, “200 000kg on porter’s head.”
Be careful entering the Grand Foyer. It’s easy to be struck blind, surrounded by fountains of shiny, pure gold. Usually, I find this much luxury too flamboyant, but this time it was not irritating. Maybe the passionate beauty of Paul Baudry’s sentimental painting neutralizes the abundance of the gold metal.
It’s hard to combine these two definitions, but in Paris it is TYPICAL to see such GORGEOUS masterpieces in many places.