Palais Garnier in Paris
The Palais Garnier, , is an elegant 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 was also often referred to as the Opéra Garnier, the Opéra de Paris or simply the Opéra. It was the primary home of the Paris Opera and its associated Paris Opera Ballet until 1989, when a new 2,700-seat house, the Opéra Bastille, with elaborate facilities for set and production changes, 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 1911 novel The Phantom of the Opera and the novel's subsequent adaptations in films and Andrew Lloyd Weber's popular 1986 musical. it has been described as the only one that is "unquestionably a masterpiece of the first rank."
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.
The Palais Garnier was designed as part of the great reconstruction of Paris during the Second Empire initiated by Emperor Napoleon III, who chose Baron Haussmann to supervise the reconstruction. In 1858 the Emperor authorized Haussmann to clear the required 12000 m2 of land on which to build a second theatre for the world-renowned Parisian Opera and Ballet companies.
The selection of the architect was the subject of an architectural design competition in 1861, a competition which was won by the architect Charles Garnier (1825–1898). Legend has it that the Emperor's wife, the Empress Eugénie, who was likely irritated that her own favored candidate, Viollet-le-Duc, had not been selected, asked the relatively unknown Garnier: "What is this? It's not a style; it's neither Louis Quatorze, nor Louis Quinze, nor Louis Seize!" "Why Ma'am, it's Napoléon Trois" replied Garnier "and you're complaining!" Andrew Ayers has written that Garnier's definition "remains undisputed, so much does the Palais Garnier seem emblematic of its time and of the Second Empire that created it. A giddy mixture of up-to-the-minute technology, rather prescriptive rationalism, exuberant eclecticism and astonishing opulence, Garnier's opera encapsulated the divergent tendencies and political and social ambitions of its era."
With the incorporated changes, the model was transported over specially installed rails to the Palais de l'Industrie for public display at the 1863 exhibition. Théophile Gautier wrote of the model (Le Moniteur Universel, 13 May 1863) that "the general arrangement becomes intelligible to all eyes and already acquires a sort of reality that better permits one to prejudge the final effect ... it attracts the crowd's curiosity; it is, in effect, the new Opéra seen through reversed opera glasses." The model is now lost, but it was photographed by J. B. Donas in 1863. In spite of this, when it came time to change the name on the new opera house, only the first six letters of the word IMPERIALE were replaced, giving the now famous "ACADEMIE NATIONALE DE MUSIQUE", an official title which had actually only been used during the approximately two-year period of the Second Republic which had preceded the Second Empire. The theatre was formally inaugurated on 5 January 1875 with a lavish gala performance. The program included the overtures to Auber's La muette de Portici and Rossini's Guillaume Tell, the first two acts of Halévy's 1835 opera La Juive, along with "The Consecration of the Swords" from Meyerbeer's 1836 opera Les Huguenots and the 1866 ballet La source with music by Delibes and Minkus.
The 7-ton bronze and crystal chandelier was designed by Garnier. Jules Corboz prepared the model, and it was cast and chased by Lacarière, Delatour & Cie. The total cost came to 30,000 gold francs. The use of a central chandelier aroused controversy, and it was criticized for obstructing views of the stage by patrons in the fourth level boxes and views of the ceiling painted by Eugène Lenepveu. Garnier had anticipated these disadvantages but provided a lively defense in his 1871 book Le Théâtre: "What else could fill the theatre with such joyous life? Who else could offer the variety of forms that we have in the pattern of the flames, in these groups and tiers of points of light, these wild hues of gold flecked with bright spots, and these crystalline highlights?"
On 20 May 1896, the falling of one of the counterweights for the grand chandelier resulted in the death of one member of the audience. This incident inspired one of the more famous scenes in Gaston Leroux's classic 1910 gothic novel The Phantom of the Opera.
The sculptural group Apollo, Poetry, and Music, located at the apex of the south gable of the stage flytower, is the work of Aimé Millet, and the two smaller bronze Pegasus figures at either end of the south gable are by Eugène-Louis Lequesne. The two gilded figural groups Harmony and Poetry, which respectively crown the apexes of the principal facade's left and right avant-corps, were both designed by Charles Gumery. The bases of the two avant-corps are decorated (from left to right) with four major multifigure groups sculpted by: François Jouffroy (Harmony), Jean-Baptiste Claude Eugène Guillaume (Instrumental Music), Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (The Dance, criticized for indecency), and Jean-Joseph Perraud (Lyrical Drama). The facade also incorporates other work by Gumery, Alexandre Falguière, and others.<ref name=Fontaine2000/>
The interior consists of interweaving corridors, stairwells, alcoves and landings allowing the movement of large numbers of people and space for socializing during intermission. Rich with velvet, gold leaf, and cherubim and nymphs, the interior is characteristic of Baroque sumptuousness.
The ceiling area, which surrounds the chandelier, contains a new 1964 painting by Marc Chagall which was installed on a removable frame over the original and depicts scenes from operas by 14 composers – Moussorgsky, Mozart, Wagner, Berlioz, Rameau, Debussy, Ravel, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Adam, Bizet, Verdi, Beethoven, and Gluck. Although praised by some, others feel Chagall's work creates "a false note in Garnier's carefully orchestrated interior."
The building became one of the most inspirational architectural prototypes for the following thirty years.
Several buildings in Poland were based on the design of the Palais Garnier. these include the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Kraków, built during 1893, The Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Lviv, built between 1897 and 1900, and also the Warsaw Philharmony edifice in Warsaw, built between 1900 and 1901.
In the Ukraine, the influence of the Palais Garnier can be seen at the National Opera House of Ukraine in Kiev, built in 1901.
The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. is modelled after the Palais Garnier, most notably the facade and Great Hall.
The Theatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro (1909) was also modeled after Palais Garnier, particularly and Great Hall and stairs.
The Amazon Theatre in Manaus (Brazil) built from 1884 to 1896. The overview is very similar, though the decoration is more simple.
The Hanoi Opera House in Vietnam is considered to be a typical French colonial architectural monument in Vietnam, and it is also a small-scale replica of the Palais Garnier. The Saigon Opera House is a smaller counterpart.
- Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra National de Paris
- Opéra National de Paris
- Paris Opera Ballet
- Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique
- The Phantom of the Opera
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- Official website (in English)
- L'Opéra Restaurant (in English)
- History of architecture (in Spanish)
- Unused architectural drawings for the Opéra de Paris by Charles Rohault de Fleury