Opera house Paris, also known as Palais Garnier, is a 2,200-seat Baroque Revival style palace (designed by Charles Garnier), which housed Opéra National de Paris until 1989.
Palais Garnier, officially until 1989, “Opéra de Paris“, was the thirteenth theater building to house the Paris opera, since the opera company was established by King Louis XIV, back in 1672.
Building of the Garnier palace was commissioned by King Napoleon III, who also organized a architecture competition to design the place — a competition that received a total of 171 entrants, and which was won by Charles Garnier.
PHOTO: Palais Garnier, as seen from Avenue de l’Opéra / Place de l’Opéra, right next to the entrance to the “Opéra” metro station entrance. You can get to the Opéra metro station using Paris metro lines M3, M7, or M8.
PHOTO: A closeup of the Italian Renaissance style loggia balcony on the Palais Garnier. As a highlight, the loggia section has a row of busts by Louis-Félix Chabaud, portraying composers — Daniel-François-Esprit Auber, Ludwig van Beethoven, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gaspare Spontini, Philippe Quinault, Gioacchino Rossini, and Jacques Fromental Halevy. In the picture are (from left) busts of Beethoven, Mozart, and Spontini.
PHOTO: Palais Garnier has many sculptures allegorical to the world of arts. Pictured is a monumental sculpture work by Eugène Guillaume, titled “La Musique instrumentale“…within the palace’s Western facade.
The Baroque Revival style opera house was under construction for 15 years, from 1860-1875, with construction work being slowed down by the events of the time, including the 1870 Franco-Prussian war.
After being completed, the opera house Paris has inspired many other buildings (and especially outside of France), including…
- Juliusz Slowacki theater in Krakow, Poland,
- Thomas Jefferson Building in Washington D.C., and
- Teatro Amazonas in Brazil.
Palais Garnier, with a French Second Empire / Baroque Revival style that was considered extravagant, was not an immediate hit among the local critics or the Parisian people in general.
In fact, the story goes that Napoleon III’s wife, Empress Eugénie, said to Garnier:
“What style is this? It is not a style at all! It is not Greek, nor Louis XVI, and not even Louis XV!”…to which Garnier is said to have responded, “No, those styles are out of date. The style is Napoleon III. And you complain?”
Initially, the official name of the opera house was “Académie Nationale de Musique – Théâtre de l’Opéra“, which was changed in 1978 to “Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris”.
The most important opera group in Paris & France, “Opéra National de Paris”, used the palace as their premises until 1989, when it moved to the, then just completed, Opéra Bastille.
With the move, the name of the old opera house was changed into “Palais Garnier” to honor the building’s architect…even though there is also a more formal title, “Académie Nationale de Musique“, written in the middle of the main facade.
However, the place is commonly referred to just as “Paris Opéra”, similarly, in fact, to the other theater buildings that have housed the opera group since it was founded by King Louis XIV.
Predecessor to Palais Garnier as the city’s main opera house was Salle le Peletier…
…and Palais Garnier is a little smaller than this predecessor, but it is by no means small — with 11,000 square meters (118,403 square feet) of floor space, good for seating an audience of around 2,200 people within the auditory and balconies.
The main stage at the Palais Garnier is massive, in fact, fitting at best some 450 performers at one time.
Address: 8 rue Scribe, 75009 Paris
Official website: OperaDeParis.fr
There is also an opera museum, with a collection that includes performance costumes, drawings, and stage backdrops.