Since first being captivated by Lloyd-Webber’s ‘The Phantom of the Opera‘ I’ve wanted to visit the Paris Opera House. However, when I arrived in Paris recently, there was so much to see that I quite forgot about it.
So, imagine my delight when we happened to find ourselves in Place de L’Opera on our walk down from the Sacre Couer.
There she stood, partially swathed in tarps and scaffolding, in all her magnificent neo-Baroque glory. Nine euros seemed such a small price to pay to enter and marvel. Sadly, escorted tours were off for duration of the structural work.
The Opera House, opened in 1875, is the work of Charles Garnier – think Sarah J-P advertising Garnier Nutrisse with her irritating girlie accent! There’s probably a little less emphasis on the first ‘r’. It’s also known as Palais Garnier.
The first glimpse of the ornate vestibule took our breath away. A wide marble staircase curving up to the first floor with massive columns and sculptures at either side, deep mahogany doors leading to the auditorium and to the opera boxes, mirrored surfaces making it appear even bigger. A photo at every blink!
A vast ballroom with exquisite parquet flooring stretched along the first floor at the front of the Opera House – its chandeliers reflected in the highly polished floor. The word magnificent doesn’t do it justice.
But, as if this wasn’t enough, the best part was yet to come. The auditorium. We just had to sit and soak in the beautiful warm glow of the upholstery and the wood, the glistening of the gold paint, the opulence of the surrounding sculptures, the stage with it’s backdrop of gothic columns, and framed on either side by two-tiers of curved opera boxes. The chandelier made famous in Lloyd-Webber’s ‘Phantom’ sat centre stage. Above us, where the notorious chandelier had been – the one that inspired part of the story for the Phantom (in 1896 a faulty counterweight caused the chandelier to fall killing one unfortunate soul)- was the newest version.
I’ve always had a particular love for the work of Marc Chagall – so imagine my delight when I looked up and saw his artwork surrounding the chandelier. Wistful and colourful – typical Chagall and totally gorgeous! He painted the ceiling in 1964 – goodness know how he did it. Did he lie on his back as Michelangelo had done in the Sistine Chapel? A labour of love…apparently not everyone shared my view when it was first seen.
The ceiling was/is spectacular.
When people ask me what the highlight of our visit to Paris was – and there many – the answer is without a doubt our visit to the Paris Opera House.