Opéra Garnier or Palais Garnier!

So as always , written pieces before , but feel this magnificent monument to Paris, France, the World needs more and so personal. I ,therefore will write a bit long post on the Opéra Garnier or more precisely on the building, the Palais Garnier. Of Paris of course! I was by here for several years, and up and down and around it as worked across the street ! This is one of the most emblematic icons of Paris! It stuck on you, like anything in Paris does.


The Opéra Garnier Palais Garnier, is a national theater which aims to be an academy of music, choreography and lyric poetry; it is a major element of the heritage of quartier or neightborhood Opéra in the  9éme arrondissement or district of Paris. It is located at Place de l’Opéra, at the north end of Avenue de l’Opéra (see posts) and at the crossroads of numerous streets. It is accessible by metro Opéra station, lines 3, 7 and 8, and  by RER line A, Auber station and by bus lines  22, 52, 53, 66, and Roissybus (aiport CDG). Parking  Q-Park Edouard VII  and Rue Bruno Coquatrix facing 23 Rue de Caumartin.

Paris opera garnier front jun15

The story goes that on a design by the architect Charles Garnier selected following a competition, its construction, decided by Napoleon III in the framework of the transformations of Paris carried out by the prefect Haussmann and interrupted by the war of 1870, was resumed at the beginning of the Third Republic, after the destruction by fire of the opera Le Peletier in 1873. The building was inaugurated on January 5, 1875.

The jury was chaired by Prince Walewski, natural son of Napoleon I and the Countess Walewska. This group of experts is entrusted with the heavy task of examining, in five eliminatory sessions, the drawings of the one hundred and seventy-one candidates. On May 30, 1861, Charles Garnier was proclaimed unanimously the winner. Charles Garnier was the first Grand Prix of Rome in 1848. However, he was a young architect who had not yet really proven himself on a large-scale project. The architect Charles Garnier received the decorations of Knight of the Legion of Honor, in 1864, Officer in 1875, Commander in 1889 and Grand Officer in 1896. The Academy of Fine Arts paid homage to him in 1899. he died 1898.


The choice of location is proposed for the competition by the Prefect Haussmann; it is land intended to be surrounded by high-rise apartment buildings. To built it took some demolition of a good part of the neighborhood of Chaussée d’Antin that saw many mansions from the 18C disappeared.  It was done taken some portions of the boulevard des Capucines and Grands Boulevards. From it ,the streets ride out in star formation such as the avenue de l’opéra, rue Auber, rue Halevy, rue du Quatre-Septembre, and rue de la Paix that takes you to the Place Vendome.

The beginning of the works takes place in 1861, but officially the laying of the first stone took place the following year, in 1862. During the excavations , intended for the realization of the solid masses of foundations, the works must abruptly stop . The level of the water table is quickly reached and the situation requires the installation of a cofferdam and steam pumps operating day and night for eight months, drying all the wells in the surrounding districts. A large concrete casing or raft is created. Soon filled with water, the latter allows the infrastructures to withstand the underlying pressure of infiltration water, estimated at 2,000 tons, and to better distribute the loads of part of the buildings in a basement of poor quality.  After construction, it serves as a reservoir for firefighters in the event of a disaster. Construction spanned nearly fifteen years, from 1861 to 1875. This water basin gives rise to leyend such as the Fantôme of the Opéra.


Napoleon III asked Haussmann to build an avenue connecting the Palais des Tuileries, (demolished in 1883 see post) ,where he resides, to the Palais Garnier. Large and with direct access to the Emperor’s pavilion, this artery would allow the sovereign to circulate without the risk of another assassination attack. This new traffic axis was to be called “avenue Napoléon III”. The inauguration by Marshal Patrice de Mac-Mahon, took place on September 19, 1877 amid scaffolding and buildings under construction. Thus, the avenue de l’Opéra was not completed until 1879, well after the end of the construction of the Palais Garnier and the fall of the Second Empire.

The inauguration took place on Tuesday January 5, 1875 in the presence of the President of the Republic Mac Mahon, the Lord Mayor of London, the Burgomaster of Amsterdam, the Royal Family of Spain and nearly two thousand guests from the Whole Europe and elsewhere. The program includes: the opening of La Muette de Portici d’Auber; the first two acts of La Juive de Halévy with Gabrielle Krauss in the role of Rachel; the opening of William Tell by Rossini; the scene from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s The Blessing of the Daggers of the Huguenots; and La Source, ballet by Léo Delibes. Charles Garnier would have been invited (no proof thus). He must pay for his place in a second box. expresses a rejection of the new rulers towards those who, directly or indirectly, served the fallen emperor, who died in 1873, and the usual ingratitude of the powerful towards artists. On February 7, 1875  is the masked and transvestite ball of the Opera, annual event of the Paris Carnival, it brings together about eight thousand participants. The last edition of this ball, created in 1715, will take place there in 1903.

Charles Garnier wishes to erect a monument of eclectic inspiration, thus obeying the fashion of his time, the facades of his lyric theater having to offer a permanent show to the pedestrian of Paris. His work, which became one of the most famous examples of the style specific to the Napoleon III period, reveals a temperament with multiple inclinations and a particular attraction for Baroque art. If the architecture of Garnier brings together several styles, it is nevertheless the Baroque, very fashionable in theatrical constructions, which prevails. The whole has a footprint of 12,000 m2 and a total work area of ​​58,000 m² (the largest in the world at the time, and this until the 1970s), 172 meters long, 101 meters wide and 79 meters elevation. The large performance hall can accommodate around 2,000 spectators. A longitudinal section model, (W 5.78m – H 2.40m – D 1.10m, exhibited at the Musée d’Orsay was produced in 1986 by Richard Peduzzi who chose to reproduce the Opera according to Garnier’s original plans.


Outside and inside, the Palais Garnier shows Euville stone in blond shades, colored marbles and the parts covered with gold underlines the quality of the design and the proportions and offers the discerning eye a profusion. architectural details. To explain this choice of great chromatic diversity, Garnier claims that he wants to go against “the sadness of Haussmannian town planning”. The large facade, overlooking the Place de l’Opéra and located at the crossroads of many Haussmannian breakthroughs, serves as a backdrop to the perspective of the avenue which will be opened a little later. In a way, it constitutes the artist’s manifesto. Its scholarly outline and proportions as well as its rich polychromy express, in a skilful synthesis, the very essence of eclectic architecture.
The four main groups on the front are from left to right: The poetry of François Jouffroy (with his palms); The instrumental music of Eugène Guillaume (with his musical instruments); The Dance of Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, whose naked characters provoked the ire of the Puritans and The dramatic drama of Jean-Joseph Perraud (with his dying victim). Sublime!!!

paris opera garnier side mar13

Going around the Opéra or Palais Garnier a bit.

The West side facade or garden side shows an  elevation visible from rue Auber and rue Scribe as well as from Place Charles-Garnier. The entrance is indicated by a series of green marble columns, two of which are surmounted by a large imperial eagle in bronze, a symbol miraculously preserved after the Second Empire. The entrance was intended only for Napoleon III and his relatives.

The Emperor’s pavilion communicates directly with a front stage lodge on the garden side. It is ultimately the Presidents of the Republic who use this ingenious distribution ensuring security and discretion. This element of the composition is also known as the “Head of State Pavilion”. These salons, having therefore not had time to serve the monarch, were subsequently chosen to host the Opera Library-Museum (BMO) which today houses many works and objects.

The East side facade or courtyard side shows an elevation visible from rue du Halévy and rue Gluck as well as from Place Jacques Rouché. The entrance is preceded, like that located to the west, by a series of columns of green marble. Only several female figures at the bottom, bronze torchiere holders, mark the difference with the opposite access.

The rear facade  is a paved courtyard, surrounded by a circular wall, incorporates a monumental portal with a sculpted tympanum, as well as two other gates and two secondary doors made of ironwork. The service entrances are at the rear of the building
The large central dome is covered with copper which, once oxidized, takes on a green color. Formerly, the domes of the two pavilions were also covered in the same way, today they are made of zinc, like the other roofs of the building. Certain decorations of the domes covering the two side pavilions are made of lead. The lantern of the large dome is in repoussé, gilded copper.

The exterior of the opera house is surrounded by sixty different lights. The set includes: lampposts, caryatids (day and night, depending on their position on the east and west side façades, candelabras, pyramidal columns in peach blossom marble, rostral columns and imperial marble columns turquin blue Some luminaires could not have been made in bronze, as Charles Garnier wished, so it is simply coppered cast iron which constitutes the material.

The Opéra Garnier has two semi circular buildings on each end. It was done to host emperor Napoléon III in the pavillon de l’Empereur giving to the street rue auber and the place Charles Garnier.  Decorated with eagles in bronze preceeded by two ramps to load furniture’s ,etc ; this pavilion d’honneur is today the Museum Library of the Opéra.  It has a great hall à l’Italienne, with red and gold tones and five levels of windows that makes it at level with the street rue Lepeletier de Debret raised in 1821, beforehand the salon of the street rue de Richelieu from the 18C.  You see the sun and the symbol of Louis XIV on top of the scene recalling the foundation of the Académie Royale de musique in 1669.  A composition painted of Chagall replaces since 1964 the ceilings painted by  Lenepveu.

paris opera garnier back mar13

The wonderful grand salon or grand foyer  was inspired by the Palace of the Doges in Venice on the ceiling evoking  the music, mythology and Christianism. The influence of the Galeria Farnèse des Carrache, on the ceiling by the galerie des glaces of Versailles, and the Bibliothéque or library of the Palais-Bourbon of Delacroix  can be noted.  The paintings of  Delaunay (Apolo receiving the lyre, Orpheus , and Eurydice…), of Barrias ,and Clairin, completes the ensemble. The abundant golden decoration contribute to the lighting on the columns, chimneys and caryatids.

The Foyer de la Danse is a workspace for artists of the corps de ballet; its ornamentation, almost as refined as that of the spaces reserved for the public, makes it a sanctuary of dance.  The rehearsal rooms for the choreography, there are a dozen rooms in addition to the dance hall . The artists’ lodges, there are about 80 individual lodges and collective lodges of all sizes, which can accommodate up to five hundred artists .The school Dance at the Opera, has moved and the old premises of the dance classes have been refurbished and modernized for rehearsals and daily lessons for the artists of the corps de ballet. The storage of set workshops are located outside the building itself, but designed by the same Charles Garnier assisted by engineer Gustave Eiffel, the set-up workshops, stores and reserves are located on Boulevard Berthier, in the 17éme arrondissement of Paris, they are named Ateliers Berthier.

Do not leave without trying the CoCo restaurant (for Coco Channel) , you go in by the  place Jacques Rouché to the right facing the façade of the opera. More info here: CoCo at the Palais Garnier Paris

You have interesting places and very personal to me ,such as the Café de la Paix (was under my responsibility accounting wise and historical monument of France) as well as the Le Grand Intercontinental Hotel (was also under my responsibility accounting wise).

For programming ,hours, prices etc, see the official Opéra Garnier in English here: Opera de Paris on the Palais Garnier programming

The Paris tourist office on the Opéra Garnier in English: Paris tourist office on the Opera Garnier

As Paris, all is sublime, the Opéra Garnier or Palais Garnier is a masterpiece of France. Enjoy it.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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4 Comments to “Opéra Garnier or Palais Garnier!”

  1. It’s beautiful inside and out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I always think of La Grande Vadrouille when I see or read about Opéra Garnier…

    Liked by 1 person

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