Essential Architecture-  Paris

Paris Opera (Palais Garnier)


Charles Garnier


The Garnier Opera is a grand landmark at the north terminus of the Av. de la Opera in Paris. (metro station: Opéra)


1857 to 1874


NeoBaroque  Beaux-Arts




  [Theatre de l'Opera (Palais Garnier)]
  [Theatre de l'Opera (Palais Garnier)][Theatre de l'Opera (Palais Garnier)]
  [Paris: Theatre de l'Opera (Palais Garnier)][Paris: Theatre de l'Opera (Palais Garnier)]
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The Palais Garnier is an opera house, a grand landmark at the northern end of the Avenue de l'Opéra in the IXe arrondissement of Paris, France. It is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time. Built in Neo-baroque style, it is the thirteenth theatre to house the Paris Opera since it was founded by Louis XIV in 1669. It seats 1,979.

It was often also called the Paris Opera, but since the building of the Opéra Bastille in 1989, it is referred to as the Opéra Garnier.

Designed as part of the great Parisian reconstruction of the Second Empire under Baron Haussmann, the new opera house proceeded from Napoleon III's authorization to Haussmann in 1858 to clear the 12,000 square metres of land on which it was to be built. The project was put out to open competition and it was won by Charles Garnier (1825–1898) in 1861. He was a then-unknown 35-year-old architect, and would go on to also build the Opéra Garnier de Monte-Carlo in Monaco.

The foundation stone was laid in 1861 followed by the start of construction in 1862. After numerous setbacks, construction was completed in 1874; it was interrupted by numerous incidents, including the Franco-Prussian War, the fall of the Empire and the Paris Commune. Another problem was the extremely marshy and swampy ground with underground water or an underground lake beneath the site, which caused continual pumping for eight months before the concrete foundation could be laid. This is said to have required the construction of an underground reservoir below the building; this "lake" later inspired The Phantom of the Opera's lair.

The Palais Garnier was formally inaugurated on January 15, 1875 with a performance of Fromental Halévy's La Juive and excerpts from Giacomo Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots

During the construction of the Paris Métro, the existence of a legendary river, the Grange-Batelière, was disproved. It had been thought to flow past land near the Paris Opera. When Opéra metro station was built, there were fears that the metro's signature Hector Guimard art-nouveau iron metro entrances would detract from the vista of the opera house's façade; instead, marble balustrades were built.

The large building has a total area of 11,000 square metres (118,404 square feet) and a huge stage with room to accommodate up to 450 artists. An ornate building, the style is monumental, opulently decorated with elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and lavish statuary. The interior is also rich with velvet, gold leaf, and cherubs and nymphs. The auditorium's central chandelier weighs over six tons, and its ceiling was painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall.

Legend has it that the Empress Eugénie asked Garnier whether the building was to be in Greek or Roman style to which he replied: It is in the Napoléon III style Madame!

The Paris Opera also provides the backdrop for the story told in Gaston Leroux's novel, The Phantom of the Opera and the many books and other works based on that novel.

Paris Opera today
It is currently styled the Palais Garnier and is one of the two venues of the Opéra National de Paris, the other being the Opéra Bastille.

Allison, John (ed.), Great Opera Houses of the World, supplement to Opera Magazine, London 2003 
Beauvert, Thierry, Opera Houses of the World, The Vendome Press, New York, 1995. [ISBN 0-86565-978-8] 
Zeitz, Karyl Lynn, Opera: the Guide to Western Europe's Great Houses, Santa Fe, New Mexico: John Muir Publications, 1991. [ISBN 0-945-465-81-5]