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Glorious extravagance of

the Opera Garnier

 

The Grand Foyer of the Opera Garnier in all it

glory. Photo Deanne Scott

 

ERIC SCOTT November 20, 2014

 

LIKE so many other people in the world my

wife and I love Paris. Just to stroll up the

Champs Elysees is enough to satisfy the

soul, but of course there are so many fabulous sights to see, that it needs a few visits to take them all in.

On our last trip, (the third) we managed at las

t to take a tour around the amazing Opera

Garnier building – and to see Box Number 5,

where the Phantom of the Opera used to

sneak in to watch Christine at work.

I know he’s a fictional character, but somehow

in the fabulous and ornate depths of the opera

house he seemed real.

From the front it looks like another rambling historic stone building with lots of steps and huge doors. But once inside it sets the mind boggling with almost as much splendour and opulence as Versailles.

It’s no wonder it took architect Charles Garnier 14 years to complete it. It was started in 1861 and competed in all its splendour in 1875

We went on the 90 minute Viator tour and met our guide in the Members Rotunda, a huge circular room with ornate ceilings and marble statues set in intricately decorated alcoves that were beautifully lit. This was where the 19th century opera goers made their first entrance.

It’s a good idea to hang onto your group number, for the place is very popular and many groups led by specialist language guides set off at varying intervals. Keep a check on your fellow travellers too just in case, as we did, you get lost by admiring some aspect of the interior for too long.

And there are so many of these stunning sights in the Neo-Baroque opera house which is one of Europe’s largest and is undoubtedly one of the most elegant, it isn’t difficult to get immersed in the extravagant beauty.

From the rotunda we walked to the main marble staircase, a work of art in itself with multicoloured marble pillars that soar to brilliant painted ceilings and the giant multi- coloured marble statues that flank the auditorium.

There were rows of small balconies where once again patrons could sit and be seen

It is all so overwhelming, but nothing compared to the theatre foyers and salons. There is the rotunda that is wall to wall mirrors that give an infinite depth – or in the days of the aristocracy – infinite views of everyone who is there.

The Grand Foyer, where audiences ambled during theatrical intervals was inspired by Versailles and it looks like it, with the mirrors, the ceiling artwork and the masses of chandeliers and magically created mosaic tiles..

There was so much space for the aristocrats to wander I was prompted to ask the guide if anyone actually watched the show. The answer was as expected: “yes, but the main point of being at the ‘Palais Garnier’ as it was known was to be seen”.

The guide gave a fascinating insight into the personal hygiene of the times too! It seems a pity that the Roman sewage systems were left to rot. They might have come in very handy during those times.

I was eagerly looking forward to seeing more of the Phantom tale with a look at the 2000-seat auditorium, but as the theatre is still used for performance - mainly ballet these days - we weren’t allowed in because there was a rehearsal going on.

We had to crowd into a small viewing room and take turns to peer into the space. We did see the huge chandelier that crashed to the floor in the movie and the guilt and red interior seating, as well as the dancers strutting their stuff on stage.

At the end of the tour we were allowed to wander through the building to revisit the splendours and take even more photos. In an expensive place like Paris the $21 ticket was a bargain price for a tour that I would thoroughly recommend.