The Palais Garnier is the 13th theater to welcome the Opéra de Paris since its creation in 1669 by King Louis XIV.
Its construction was ordered by Napoleon III as part of his efforts to transform Paris during the Second Empire.
The theater owes its name to Charles Garnier, a then-unknown architect who took over the palace's design and at the age of 35.
The actual building of this iconic theater took place over a period of fiteen years, from 1860 to 1875, and was interrupted a number of times - most especially by the Franco-German War of 1870 and the fall of the First Empire.
It finally opened its doors to the public on January 15, 1875.
The Exterior Façade
Charles Garnier imagined the exterior as being the most emblematic part of his palace.
The decoration and design evokes celebration through its effusive use of shapes and colors, and calls to mind the sacred character of the monument by a fine statuary of Allegories (Harmony, Instrumental Music, the Idyllic, the Cantata, the Drama, Dance, and Lyrical Drama).
In effect, the main façade of the Palais Garnier represents all the celebrated arts waiting just inside its doors.
The Grand Staircase
For Charles Garnier, this staircase constituted the true heart of his theater.
He had a natural talent for playing with dramatic contrasts, creating a 30-meter tall visual beauty that catches the eye of all passing through the theater.
Apollo, Orpheus, and Olympus themselves seem to be calling to each visitor from their paintings.
The Grand Foyer
Garnier conceived the Grand Foyer as a space for spectators to walk around during intermission.
The gallery is decorated with a profusion of sculptures, gildings, peintings, and chandeliers. Garnier's vision was inspired by the main galleries of the most magnificent châteaux of his time. The space is lit up by ten chadeliers, each visible from the Avenue de l'Opéra.
If visitors look up, they can admire Paul Baudry's ceilings.
The Rotonde des Abonnés
This circular vestibule, situated directly underneath the main theater, welcomes visitors arriving by car. The floor is ornately decorated with magnificent marble mosaics.
La Pythonisse can be found in the central axe of the rotunda. In this Greek myth, Pythia, one of Apollo's High Priestesses, enters into a shocking trance to receive her divine visions.
This legendary feature highlights the gravity and the nobility of lyrical art: showing man's destiny.
This Italian-style stage was, at the time of its construction, the biggest in the world: 49 meters long and 26 meters deep (or 1350 square meters) and 72 meters tall.
The Palais Garnier was predestined to be a grand romantic opera with its massive historical frescoes (before the decline of that artistic style).
The theater's capacity (538 seats) bears witness to the enormous stage design of that period.
Naturally, the heart of the theater.
After having studied other great audiutoriums in Europe, Garnier concluded that a horseshoe shape was the best to accomodate demands in terms of acoustics and visibility.
The original ceiling, painted in 1872 by Eugène Lenepveu, represented the Triomph of Beauty.
In 1960, by the demand of André Malraux (then-Minister of Cultural Affairs), the ceiling was painted over by Marc Chagall, evoking the grand composers of opera in his strange universe.
If the auditorium's gilding and velour seats seem striking today, it was still somewhat tame compared to others at the time.
Palais Garnier - Opéra national de Paris
8 Rue Scribe