Grand Opera in Paris, description, tickets, tours

Grand Opera in Paris

The Grand Opéra or Opera Garnier is the main theater in the French capital and one of the greatest opera houses in the world. The luxurious palace, where Parisians first heard the immortal masterpieces of Prokofiev and Stravinsky, the legendary theater, where Picasso ran the scenery and the great Chanel acted as costume designer, was and remains part of the world cultural heritage.

The stage of the Grand Opéra in Paris is a kind of musical Olympus, which is conquered only by the select few. The place where Fyodor Chaliapin and Galina Vishnevskaya received standing ovations and where Rudolph Nureyev and Vaclav Nijinsky presented their complicated programs has long ago become the national symbol of France and one of the iconic sights of its capital.

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Video: Grand Opéra.

History of the Opera Garnier

The history of the theater dates back to 1669, after Louis XIV officially recognized opera as a separate art form. The Grand Opéra was the 13th concert venue built in Paris during this period. After the Great French Revolution and until the beginning of the 19th century the theater did nothing but change its names, becoming now the Theater of Arts, now the Theater of Opera, now returning to its original title of the Royal Academy of Music and Dance.

Opera Garnier owes its current appearance in part to Napoleon III. Frightened by the attempt on his life at the old opera house, the monarch thought it would be nice to have a new theater that would keep out detractors. After a while, a competition was announced for the design of the future temple of the arts, which, contrary to all expectations, was won by an unknown architect, Charles Garnier. Despite constant difficulties in his work (bad choice of site, wars), he brilliantly coped with the task, spending almost 15 years of his life on his brainchild.

The grand opening of the Grand Opera was held in January 1875. A total of 36 million francs were spent on the implementation of the “imperial whim”, and the construction was never completed. By the way, the monarch himself did not live to see this solemn moment.

The Grand Opéra: Appearance

The south façade of the Opéra Garnier is the front part of the building, designed to surprise and impress. The base of the massive structure is the gallery, on which, in turn, rests the marble colonnade of the loggia. All elements of the composition are generously decorated with stucco in the form of antique masks and plant ornaments. Here you can find bronze busts of great composers: Beethoven, Mozart, Rossini and others. The Grand Opera is crowned with a giant dome of green copper, on top of which there is a sculptural group depicting Apollo and two muses. In the corners of the theater facade the statues of Poetry and Harmony are frozen in solemn poses. It is worth noting that the sculpture of the ancient Greek god has not only an aesthetic function, but also a practical one: the metal lyre in his hands plays the role of a lightning rod.

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If you’re wondering what the creator of all this splendor looked like, welcome to the west wall of the Grand Opéra. Here you can find a bust of Charles Garnier himself, and see the entrance designed especially for Napoleon III. An elaborate system of ramps allowed the imperial carriage to drive right up to the theater entrance, thus helping to protect the crowned person from possible assassination attempts. Today the western part of the building is home to the Phantom Restaurant. The institution is interesting in that it consists entirely of glass modules. Such a method of construction was used specifically not to break the architectural style of the opera palace.

On the east façade of the Grand Opéra is the entrance for the Parisian elite and the holders of a fat purse, who have rented boxes. The north wall provides access to the building for the stagehands.

The interior

The first thing that greets visitors to the Opéra Garnier is the 30-meter marble staircase, which has an unusual branching design. Once unhurried walks along its aisles were only the privilege of the local beau monde, but today any tourist can feel himself a Parisian aristocrat and walk along the snow-white steps. By the way, when climbing the stairs of the Grand Opéra, don’t forget to look up and appreciate the magnificent ceiling paintings of the lobby.

Library Museum

On the west side of the building, often called the Emperor’s Rotunda, sits the library-museum. Here everyone can learn curious facts about the theater’s past. The local exposition consists mainly of photographs, paintings and miniature models of theater scenery.

Theater Hall

All performances within the walls of the Grand Opera House take place in the theater hall. The room measuring 32×31 m² has a horseshoe shape and is decorated in rich golden-red tones. The central part of the ceiling is occupied by an eight-ton crystal chandelier. It seems incredible, but on its exquisite velvet armchairs the hall can accommodate at least 1,900 spectators. By the way, the plafond of the Opera Garnier was painted by our compatriot Marc Chagall. The choice of the avant-garde artist caused much controversy and distortion, but in 1964 the elderly Chagall finally presented a finished canvas to the theater authorities. The 220 sq.m. canvas was divided into five multi-colored sectors, each depicting a scene from a classical opera or ballet. For example, on the green fragment you could see the characters from the opera “Tristan and Isolde”, as well as the characters from the ballet “Romeo and Juliet”. The red one showed episodes from “The Firebird” and “Daphnis and Chloe.” Yellow was dedicated to “Swan Lake” and “Giselle.” Blue referred the viewer to the operas Boris Godunov and The Magic Flute. And the characters of Pellias and Melisande were placed on the white. The central part of the plafond was decorated by the artist with motifs from the music of Bizet, Verdi, Beethoven, and Gluck.

Dance Foyer

Behind the theater stage, hidden from prying eyes by iron and velvet curtains, is one of the most savory areas of the Opera Garnier: the Dancing Foyer. The luxurious lobby with its gilded walls and mirrored panels was intended for warming up the ballet companies before the upcoming performance. True, it was hardly ever used for its intended purpose. Quite quickly the foyer became a salon for local rich men who came here to flirt with pretty ballerinas, to offer them their patronage and generous allowance. Repeated attempts were made to bar the Parisian nobility from accessing the salon, but as a rule they ended up going nowhere. It was only in 1935 that public access to the backstage was permanently cut off. Today, the main attraction of the Dancing Foyer are the portraits of the greatest ballerinas of France. Here one can see images of the mysterious Mademoiselle de La Fontaine, Françoise Prévost, Marie-Thérèse de Soubligny, and other founders of modern ballet art.

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Grand Foyer

During intermission, guests of the Grand Opera usually stroll through the foyer. The lobby is designed in the form of a castle gallery and offers a beautiful view of the main theater staircase. Numerous windows and gilded lace decor give the room an extraordinary grace and airiness. The end point of the hall is the mirror salon, which is a must-see for the unique ceiling and wall paintings by Clarence.

Legends of the Opera Garnier

Rumors, legends, and superstitions have long been an integral part of the Grand Opera. The theater owes its main “bogeyman” to Gaston Leroux – the author of the legendary novel The Phantom of the Opera. The work, the action of which unfolds on the theater stages and in the basements of the palace, entailed a series of strange events…

For example, there is a rumor that the theater management never rents Box 5 in the first tier. Allegedly its season ticket is reserved for Eric (the Phantom of the Opera) for life, and violation of the rule will lead to the most unpredictable consequences. The legend is, of course, groundless, but as tragedy has once occurred in the theater (the crystal chandelier’s counterweight snapped during a performance and it fell into the audience), the management of the Opéra Garnier prefers not to take the risk.

Incredible legends have been penned about the Phantom himself. For example, we can hear the heartwarming story of the ugly young man who helped Garnier to design the building. Eric (so called hero) fell in love with one of the theater actresses, but the romantic passion ended tragically for the maimed architect… However, it is possible that this story is invented specially to attract tourists, what cannot be said about the story connected with the lake. If you’ve ever read the famous work of Leroux, you’ll remember that the writer talked about the amazing reservoir in the basement of the building. Undoubtedly, there is a fiction here, but there is a huge reservoir of water in the lower floors of the theater.

Interesting Facts

The pool created in the basement of the Grand Opera in case of fire has real carps, which are fed by the staff of the theater.

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The basement of the Opera Garnier communicates with the network of Parisian catacombs.

On the roof of the theater, as on the roofs of many other Parisian buildings, there is a beehive.

In 1907, the director of the French Gramophone Company hid 24 discs of lyrical songs in the walls of the Grand Opera. The recordings were intended for future generations. Greetings from the past were discovered in 1988 during restoration work at the Opéra Garnier. The recordings were discovered after 100 years and reissued by EMI on 3 CDs.

Tourist information

Visiting the most beautiful theater in France is not a cheap entertainment. A place with a good viewing area will cost on average 250 euros (opera performance). For the ballet performance will have to pay from 25 to 250 euros. Prices can rise and fall depending on the season, so it is better to keep track of current information on the official website of the Grand Opera House Here you can also order tickets. If the ritual of purchasing is important to you, then welcome to the theater. Ticket offices are open here from 9:00 to 18:00 on weekdays, from 9:00 to 13:00 on Saturdays.

Those who are more interested in the unique atmosphere of the opera house can limit themselves to a guided tour. For 11 Euros you can walk around the main halls and visit the gift store inside, selling souvenirs and books on opera and ballet. Normally, the entrance ticket gives you the right to see the following rooms:

  • the grand staircase;
  • the library-museum;
  • the rotunda of the eastern facade;
  • lobby;
  • The dance foyer;
  • Imperial Rotunda;
  • Salon of the Moon and Salon of the Sun.

Please note: a tour of the auditorium is not usually included in the tour program.

The Paris Opera is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00 (and until 13:00 if a morning performance is scheduled).

How to reach

The address of the Opera Garnier is 8 Rue Scribe, Paris, 75009.

The most convenient way to get to the Grand Opéra is on lines 3, 7 and 8 of the Paris Metro. The subway station is located just opposite the theater building. The second option is by bus. Routes 20, 21, 22, 27, 29, 42, 52, 53, 66, 68, 81 and 95 go to the Opéra Garnier.

Grand Opera

Going to Paris, the Grand Opera is on your list of must-see places! History of the theater, its current repertoire, interesting facts and useful practical information.

What is the Grand Opera in Paris? The magnet for millions of music lovers and ballet enthusiasts. The stage that thousands of artists dream about. A theatrical mecca and an architectural masterpiece of world significance. The famous Parisian landmark has other well-known names in addition to one. Officially it is the Paris National Opera. But the French themselves prefer to call it the Opéra Garnier and also the Palais Garnier.

In the late 50’s of the 19th century, the third French emperor Napoleon decided that a new grand theater was needed in the center of Paris. One that would surpass all the existing ones in the world in beauty and luxury. Who built the Grand Opera? The competition for the construction in 1860 was won by a novice architect, whose name was later given to the building.

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Charles Garnier – that was the name of the creator of the masterpiece – built his brainchild for a long time, almost 15 years. During those years, the country lost the war, ceased to be an empire, experienced a commune that shook the world. The Grand Opera opened its doors to the public for the first time in the winter of 1875. Had the client of the project lived to see it, he would have been delighted. The majestic palace theater was the crowning glory of the emperor’s adored eclectic neo-Baroque.

This is interesting! To make the cellars watertight, the architect Garnier built a double hollow wall around the building. In this gap the writer Gaston Leroux placed the torture chamber of his sinister Phantom of the Opera.

Literally immediately the building became a hub of musical and social life. On its stage the best artists performed, the main premieres of Europe went on. Some interesting facts about the Grand Opera concerns Russia. Chaliapin’s bass could be heard here, Nijinsky’s works mesmerized the audience, and the legendary Diaghilev Seasons were held here.

But the public was rushing to the Palace of Music not just for the spectator experience. At the entrance, in the glittering gold foyer, boxes and dressing rooms, chic toilets and jewelry were on display, intrigue was woven, acquaintances and romances were made. The temple of art became the Mecca of secular Paris also because balls were given there.

When people ask in which city the Grand Opera is located, they usually mean the Palais Garnier. However, the history of the Paris Opera House as an institution is not only connected with this building. The first opera opened in the French capital at the end of the 17th century, the building erected by the Garnier was the thirteenth.

In the 20th century, the life of the national opera in Paris also underwent changes. In the eighties the palace acquired a competitor – the Opéra de la Bastille. The new venue took over all the singing, leaving the old one with only the ballet. Not all fans of the vocal genre liked it. Later they made a small concession – once a season the opera returns to its former home.

Grand Opera poster.

The Granier Opera opens its season in October and closes in July. In the repertoire the classics peacefully coexist with contemporary ballet; traditional performances alternate with avant-garde productions.

Performers include most often the Paris National Opera Ballet Company and Orchestra. The ballet company of the theater is an elite group, such companies are rare in the world. In addition to their mastery of art, they are renowned for their youth: the average age of the soloists is just 25. It cannot be denied that the dancers are helped by the home theater’s walls to reach great heights so quickly.

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The orchestra is also outstanding: almost 180 world-class musicians under the baton of the best conductors. The ensemble regularly performs on two stages – the Grand Opera and the Opéra de la Bastille. The opera company travels to the palace only once a season for one performance.

There are no more balls at the Paris Opera, but it remains a place for socializing of the beau monde and the secular public. The ladies’ dresses and men’s suits are as impressive as they were 100 years ago. The likelihood of running into a French celebrity in the foyer is higher than anywhere else in Paris.

Grand Opera tickets.

Every performance at the Palais Garnier is an event. There’s always a rush around tickets, so it’s not easy to get in as an audience member. You should take care of this opportunity several months before the event, especially if it is a premiere or a popular production.

You can buy them on the Paris Opera website and at the box office. What do you do when you can’t get tickets but really want to go to a performance? If you come to the theater a few hours before the event, there is a small chance to remedy the situation. At that time, tickets briefly reappear at the box office.

That’s interesting! There is a legend that the director of the Opera Grandier is contractually forbidden to sell tickets for box number 5 on the upper tier. As if it had been reserved for a ghost for eternity. The person who occupies this box is in for a misfortune.

Tickets for the best seats cost about 250 EUR, starting from 10 EUR. On the one hand, not cheap, on the other hand, nothing if compared with the Bolshoi Theater.

Lack of a ticket for a performance or interest in ballet is not a reason to refuse a visit to the most luxurious musical theater. Tours of the palace are available all year round. Before entering, it’s worth enjoying the beauty of the dome and facades. Especially impressive is the south facade. The gallery is decorated with sculptural compositions symbolizing the different arts, and the loggia is decorated with ancient masks and busts of great composers.

And then one goes inside – up the front stairs, enjoy the palace-like splendor of the foyer, examine the plafond painted by Marc Chagall in the red-gold hall.

That’s interesting! Since the early 1980s there has been an apiary on the roof of the theater. The beehives were placed by one of the props, who is also a passionate beekeeper.

Tickets for tours are sold at the box office and cost around 10 EUR.

Where is the famous Grand Opera?

In the center, at the end of Avenue de L’Opera (the exact address is 8 Rue Scribe). Nearby is the metro station Opera. It is easy to reach the theater from anywhere in the French capital. It is reached by metro trains of lines n 3, 7 and 8. No less convenient option would be a bus. Right by the palace, numbers 20-22, 27, 29, 42, 52 and 53, 66, 81, 95 stop.

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