France // Paris //

The Opéra-Garnier

Set back from the boulevard des Capucines and crowning the avenue de l’Opéra is the dazzling Opéra-Garnier, which was constructed from 1860 to 1875 as part of Napoléon III’s new vision of Paris. The architect, Charles Garnier, whose golden bust by Carpeaux can be seen on the rue Auber side of his edifice, pulled out all the stops to provide a suitably grand space in which Second Empire high society could parade and be seen. The facade is a fabulous extravaganza of white, pink and green marble, colonnades, rearing horses, winged angels and niches holding gleaming gold busts of composers. You can look round the equally sumptuous interior, including the plush auditorium – rehearsals permitting – the colourful ceiling of which is the work of Chagall, and which depicts scenes from well-known operas and ballets. The visit includes the small Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra, dedicated to the artists connected with the Opéra throughout its history, and containing model sets, paintings and temporary exhibitions on operatic themes.