Le Palais Garnier

The Opera House that Almost Wasn’t

This nineteenth century Opera House is one of the most grand buildings in Paris and one of the most recognized opera houses in the world. Commissioned by Napoleon III, it was created by Charles Garnier in the popular Beaux Arts style of the time with heavy glass chandeliers, sweeping marble staircases and gilt decorations.

Now home to the Paris Ballet, it has a 2,000 seat theatre and is as striking as it used to be and a must-see on any trip to Paris. So take a step back in time and admire the excess of the late 1800s.

Give Them Light

  • The famous chandelier which hangs from the ceiling of the Opera Garnier weighs a staggering 7 tonnes of pure bronze and crystal, and was designed by Garnier himself.
  • However, because it was so large it was unpopular with some as it blocked the view of those who sat in the fourth level boxes and the view of the ceiling painted by Eugène Lenepveu.
  • Unfortunately in the late 1890s, the counterweight of the chandelier burst through the ceiling, killing a member of the audience. This was comically drawn on in the famous novel by Gaston Leroux, Phantom of the Opera, which drew heavily on influences from the famous Opera House.

The Phantom Of Opera

  • Workers began clearing land in the 9th arrondissement of Paris for the Palais Garnier in 1860. In 1861, the concrete foundation was laid for the large, 2,200-seat opera house.
  • However, water swelled from the swampy ground below and repeatedly interrupted building efforts. Rumors emerged from the arrondissement that a large, fish-filled lake existed beneath the construction site.
  • One Parisian who took note of the rumor and was intrigued by its story was Gaston Leroux. In 1910, Leroux, 42, used the story as inspiration to help write his now-famous gothic love story, "The Phantom of The Opera."

The Thirteen Year Wait

  • The Opera Garnier took 13 years to build, from 1862 to 1875 because an underground lake was discovered. Instead of attempting to completely drain and remove the lake, builders kept it. it is still there and serves as the hiding place for the Phantom in the 2004 movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera".
  • Building was also delayed because of the Siege of Paris, France got involved in the Franco-Prussian War, the Paris Commune and ultimate fall of France’s second Empire, and an 1873 fire, the Opéra Garnier finally became what its creator had intended: a place for fun and fêtes and fantasy among the world’s super rich.
  • The building was part palace, part temple, part administrative center; a space where money was the new king, the new power, the new god. So I think its safe to say the wait was worth it.

An Artwork From Within

  • The interior of the Opéra Garnier building is even more impressive than its exterior. The marble Grand Staircase has a height of 98ft.The 54m long Grand Foyer features a mosaic covered ceiling and a large number of chandeliers. It is so luxurious that it can be compared with the corridors in Versailles.
  • Behind the Grand Foyer and below the green copper dome is the lavishly Grand Foyer decorated auditorium with red velvet, plaster cherubs and gold leaf.
  • The auditorium's magnificent chandelier weighs a massive six tonnes. Its oval-shaped ceiling was painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall. The stage behind the auditorium is 60 meter high (197 ft) and has room for up to 450 actors.

The Show Must Go On

The Palais Garnier is not only known for its beaux art style but for its ballet and opera shows. If you every come to the opera house, you can come in see the shows listed below:


from 27 May to 14 June 2016 - Giselle in two acts conducted by Koen Kessels

from 05 to 09 Jan 2016 - batsheva dance company conducted by Ohad Naharin

from 21 to 25 June 2016-ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET conducted by Gavin Sutherland


from 19 January to 14 February 2016 - Capriccio by Richard Strauss

from 20 May to 12 June 2016 - Lear by Aribert Riemann

from 07 September to 08 October 2015 - PLATÉE by Jean-Philippe Rameau

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