Tuesday, October 9, 2012

L'histoire du Palais Garnier à Paris

A statue of Apollo holding a lyre at the Palais Garnier in Paris

The Palais Garnier in Paris is most commonly known as the Paris Opera, and is considered one of the most important structures in Paris. A 2,200 seat opera house, it became the successor to the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique, which burned down in 1873. This landmark is a prime example of Beaux-Arts architecture movement, drawing on the17th century Classical Roman Baroque style of emphasizing drama and grandeur, as well as symmetry.
The Palais Garnier was commissioned during the reconstruction brought on by Napoleon III – civic planner Baron Haussman was given the task to clear enough land to build the opera house in 1858, and architect Charles Garnier's design was chosen from a competition held in 1861.

Palais Garnier model

The building was designed to be an extravagant experience – a lush, richly decorated space with over the top elements such as a six-ton central chandelier, bronze busts of composers, and multiple columns, friezes and statues. The enormous stage could accommodate up to 450 people at one time, an attention to space only matched by the building’s cavernous corridors and stairwells.
Construction began in 1862, and very soon was plagued with setbacks and delays. It turned out the foundation was unwittingly laid upon a swamp, which took roughly eight months to drain. Then the Franco-Prussian War and the subsequent fall of Napoleon III also caused long interruptions between construction periods.

Front view

It wasn’t until the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique (1821 – 1873) burned down that there was a groundswell of motivation that finally gave Garnier a chance to finish, and he did so by the end of 1874. The Palais Garnier was inaugurated on January 15, 1875. However, the name Palais Garnier is only a recent title – by the time it was renamed as such in 1989 it had gone through two other names. Its first was Académie Nationale de Musique - Théâtre de l'Opéra and was so until 1978 when it was renamed as the Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris. 
Palais Garnier became the official name when the Opéra Bastille was built in 1989 to replace the older opera house – luckily, the Palais Garnier stillremains and continues to house performances. The survival of the Palais Garnier is thanks to the public that still considers it to be and refers to it as the Paris Opera.

The Grand Staircase

The Grand Foyer at The Palais Garnier

A view of the stage

The ceiling of the auditorium, decorated by Marc Chagall

 The stage overlooking the seats, the boxes, and the famous chandelier

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