A Night at the Paris Opera “Palais Garnier”
Ever dreamt of going to the opera in Paris? You might have seen photographs of the stunning Palais Garnier building in Paris’ chic ninth arrondissement, known as Paris’ “Opéra”, but what you might not know is that most operas are not performed here any more. Curious? Here’s our short history lesson of the day…
The “Opéra” district of Paris is called so because of the Palais Garnier building, opened in 1875. Its architect was the previously-unknown Charles Garnier. Garnier won a competition, launched in 1860 by the Emperor Napoleon III, for his design of a new, state-funded opera house. His design was completely radical for the time. An often-recited anecdote is that, when asked by the Empress Eugenie what the style of the opera house was to be, Garnier replied “Why, Madame, in Napoleon Trois […]” which goes to show how ‘nouveau’ the architecture was for the time.
The Palais Garnier, as it is known now, was the setting of the novel (and now broadway musical) The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Until 1989 it was the main host of opera and ballet in Paris, but now it is at the Opéra Bastille, in Paris’ twelfth arrondissement, where you’ll find the majority of performances.
The Palais Garnier does still host some operas. But nowadays, the crowd outside its doors are predominantly queuing just to visit the historic building and its museum. I say “just”, but this architectural beauty is well worth standing in line for, even if you don’t hear any arias. There is also a newly-refurbished restaurant and bar which have received good reviews and have a lovely decor.
But, if you’re after an evening at the opera, you will probably need to head to the Bastille. Inaugurated by François Mitterand on the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison in 1989, this is where most operas are now held. It might not be as beautiful as the Palais Garnier, but it has 2700 seats, and multiple performance rooms, which means it can host both small- and large-scale productions. And…here’s the major selling point: tickets can be as little as five euro! Sounds crazy for an opera ticket, I know, but you only need to turn up an hour and a half before the performance starts and queue for a short while. Ok, so your seats might not be perfect, but that’s roughly half the price of a visit round a museum. Why not try your luck?
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