9 th arrondissement, Paris-Pages.com


The Opera Garnier

The Opéra Garnier, so called to differentiate it from the recently completed Opera Bastille, and named after its architect, Charles Garnier, see below.

It was built in 1875 not just as an opera house, but as a place to see and be seen. In fact the auditorium and stage take up less than half the 11 000 square meteres of building space. The rest is given over to staircases, and refreshment rooms all linked by long rooms down which the fashionable of the day could parade their beauty and riches.

The Grand Foyer is 49 metres long. It seats 2158. There are still performances held here, and there are also guided tours, so you can see Chagall's ceiling without having to pay a fortune for a ticket. His ceiling represents nine operas or ballets. A reproduction of the original ceiling can be seen below.

And the famous lake underneath? Well it is not entirely fictional. During construction water kept flooding the foundations, and even though Garnier had the pumps working for a full year it still flowed in from underground springs. So he

Paris Opera Garnier

built a series of giant cisterns to hold it and the weight and pressure of the water in these counteracted the pressure from the springs. The water can be used for firefighting.

The chandelier weighs seven tons. On 20 th of May 1896 it fell killing one woman and injuring many. It was this that inspired Gaston Leroux's The Phanton of the Opera.

And even stranger than this is the beehives on top of the building. The honey from these hives can be bought inside the Opera and makes a very interesting gift.

Charles Garnier (below), relatively unknown till he won the competition to design the Paris Opera, and much neglected during his lifetime. But the beautiful Opera has outlasted all those who ignored him and they are long forgotten. And the locals, who know best, now call it the Opera Garnier.

On the left and right close ups of the statues on the front corners of the building.

Paris Opera Garnier

Original ceiling of Opera Garnier

On the left is a reproduction of the original ceiling of the Opera. This ceiling is still there a few inches above the new, Chagall one. Perhaps they were worried that the Chagall might give them something a little too daring!

On the right is a portrait of Charles Garnier.

Charles Garnier

Below, left and right are the entrances to Passage Verdeau and Passage Jouffroy. These are really just very old shopping malls. They used to be the most fashionable place to come to shop. Today they are still very nice places to wander around.

There are some fascinating small shops. Many of them are for specialist collectors of stamps, coins and postcards. There is even a shop selling miniture chandeliers and light fittings for dolls houses! And just across Boulevard Montmatre are the Passages des Panoramas - another group of covered passages, but these are in the 2nd arrondissment.

Passage Verdeau
Passage Jouffroy
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