Favorite Fancy Place: The Opera Garnier

Today’s main goal was the Louvre, but as the second stop after the Louvre was the Opera Garnier stop, I thought, why not?

The facade is quite impressive. It is fancy with a purpose: celebrate the arts. Apollo holds his golden lyre aloft at the tippy tip top, and the busts of famous composers line the balcony above statues of various muses.

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I did arrive before the doors opened, however, and it I walked all around the impressively-sized building and perused neighboring windows. I thought it was a nice old building, and I was wondering if it was really worth the extra €9 (not covered by my handy-dandy Museum Pass), and shouldn’t I just be getting on to the Louvre already.

I decided, as I rounded the building a second time, if the gates were open, I’d go in, and if not, I wasn’t going to wait around. Thank heaven the gates were open.

Otherwise appropriately known as Le Palais Garnier, this building, so far as I have seen, is my absolute favorite fancy pretty building. It’s primary function was as a home to the theatrical arts fit for the people who could care less about the arts but very much cared about publicity. The crowd that cares more about getting in and out of a limo in front of paparazzi than what club they are actually at. It was a place for the aristocrats to see and be seen. And I say, Well done!

As ornate as it is, it is definitely not baroque. I should know. I detest baroque. This is ornate but elegant. It uses a smooth blend of colored marbles and bronze and gold and blazing candelabras and mirrors in just the right places. The grand staircase sweeps up and around several levels, allowing for plenty of opportunity for skirts to sweep and shoes to sparkle.

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It remains dark enough for cameras to have difficulty to work without flash, but bright enough for the polished marble to shine and the gold paint to glint. The auditorium seats a measly 2,000 with an equal amount of space devoted to galleries, rotundas, and foyers for the pre, inter, and post opera meeting and greeting.

A particularly large rotunda displays a series of wall paintings featuring females depicted as representing different types of refreshment.

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Another small rotunda is done all in black, gold, and silver, with large bats emblazoned above the chandelier.

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The main chandelier, of course, weighs over eight metric tons. The basement of the opera also straddles a lake. Sound…familiar?

There was also a lovely display in the outlet of the national library – all the books in the small two-story gallery were operas, liberettos, and music books. It also showed small models of scenery for many famous productions.

On the ground floor there were also displays about the wardrobe department, featuring a variety of costumes sprinkled throughout the house. My absolute favorite were the ones from a production of Swan Lake, but the placement of lights and glass made it next to impossible to photograph.

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All in all, I would say this is a must-see if you like pretty things.

Side note: The opera house is still in use, though there is a much larger opera house that is now more prominent. And the gift shop was showing several different ballets on different screens, and one was of the Tales of Beatrix Potter, and the dancers were all dancing in giant furry animal suits. I have way more respect for those dancers than the ones doing Romeo and Juliet.

A note for the other side: You can also buy honey made by the bees lodging in the roof of the Opera! Unfortunately, there was none available at the time.

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One thought on “Favorite Fancy Place: The Opera Garnier

  1. I agree: in architecture, neo-baroque and Second Empire are much classier than Baroque itself… I’ve always loved the Opera Garnier, though I’ve never seen it in person—such an appropriate setting for a phantom 😉

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