The Palais Garnier is a grand landmark at the northern end of the Avenue de l’Opera in Paris, France. It is regarded as one of the architectural masterpieces of its time. Built in the Neo-Baroque style, it is the thirteenth theatre to house the Paris Opera since it was founded by Louis XIV in 1669.
It was often also called the Paris Opera, but since the building of the Opera Bastille in 1989, it is referred to as the Opera Garnier.
It was built on the orders of Napoleon III as part of the great Parisian reconstruction project carried out by Baron Haussmann. The project was put out to competition and was won by Charles Garnier (1825-1898), a then unknown 35-year-old architect. He would go on to also build the Opera Garnier de Monte-Carlo in Monaco.
Building work, which began in 1857 and finished in 1874, was interrupted by numerous incidents, including the Franco-Prussian War, the fall of the Empire and the Paris Commune. Another problem was the discovery of an underground lake beneath the site. This required the construction of an underground reservoir below the building. This lake later inspired The Phantom of the Opera’s lair. The Palais Garnier was formally inaugurated on January 15, 1875.
The large building has a total area of 11,000 square meters (118,404 square feet) and a huge stage with room to accommodate up to 450 artists. An ornate building, the style is monumental, opulently decorated with elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and lavish statuary. The interior too is rich with velvet, gold leaf, and cherubs and nymphs. The auditorium’s central chandelier weighs over six tons, and its ceiling was painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall.
Legend has it that the Empress Eugénie asked Garnier whether the building was to be in Greek or Roman style to which he replied: It is in the Napoléon III style Madame!
It is currently used for ballet performances. Paris’s primary opera house is now the Opera Bastille.2