The Palais Garnier – Part 1.
We invite you to discover the Palais Garnier which is an architectural masterpiece of the Second Empire. Today, we will tell you how the project of a new opera theatre was born.
From the Royal Academy of Dance to the Opera Garnier
The Royal Academy of Dance was founded in 1661 under the reign of Louis XIV. The choreographic art was previously reserved for the entertainment of the Court, the Royal Academy finally allowed the dance company to have a stage to perform in public. By dancing during the interludes of Operas, the Ballet gradually gained its independence.
Then in 1669, the Royal Academy of Music was also created.
It was formed by a troupe of singers, the first professional orchestra of France and the Royal Academy of Dance. The King granted it the privilege of the monopoly of “musical theatre” performance.
Also called Opera or Opera Academy, it would promote French opera in Paris and the most important cities.
Project of a new opera theatre on the Grands Boulevards
During two centuries, the Opera changed its location many times, until the construction of a new building was decided by Napoleon III, having been the victim of an assassination attempt outside the theatre Le Peletier, which then served as an opera in Paris.
The will was to build a theatre in a safer neighborhood. Already by the prefect Haussmann remodeled as part of major renovations of the capital, the Grands Boulevards district was entirely appropriate.
A wide open and international competition was organized to build an « Imperial Academy of Music and Dance« . 171 projects were received. The event was important, the officials, the press, the Parisians, all were eager to know the result.
A jury composed of Prince Walewski and a group of experts studied all these projects… On May 30, 1861, to the surprise of the major installed architects and the despair of Viollet-le-Duc, Charles Garnier, a thirty-five years old architect, unknown, was declared winner by consensus.
At once rational in its fitting, pure in its proportions and eclectic in its decor, the project has surprise and was attracting. It combined several styles harmoniously arranged. At the Empress Eugenie, who exclaimed: « …it is not a style, it is neither Greek nor Roman…”, Charles Garnier said “it’s Napoleon III, Madam!”.
Garnier surrounded himself with architect friends to assist him throughout the project. Long and difficult, the construction of the new opera lasted for fifteen years.
In 1867, the facade was presented during the Universal Exhibition. But the interior was not finished. The war in 1870, the fall of the Empire, the Commune and the lack of money led to the work stoppage. The construction restarted after the fire at the opera in the rue Le Peletier.
The Opera Garnier was finally inaugurated in January 1875 by the President MacMahon, in presence of many French and European Officials. Regarding Charles Garnier… although invited, he had to pay his place in a second box…
If you want to know more about the Palais Garnier, come back next week on this blog!
We will present you this monumental building which is one of the greatest operas in the world. You will discover its beautiful auditorium, its Grand Staircase and Foyers, its luxurious décor… Historic monument since 1923, the Palais Garnier is also one of the most visited monuments of Paris.
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