One of the most prestigious stages in all of France, the Palais Garnier was constructed from 1860 to 1875, designed by legendary architect Charles Garnier, who was selected among a handful of talented architects in a fierce design competition. The building itself is considered a artful masterpiece, and was one of the most expensive construction projects to come from the Second French Empire under the reign of Napoléon III. The elaborate use of different materials to lend a lavish multicolored facade was typical of many of the works under the rule of Napoléon III, and features sculptures of various figures of Greek mythology. The official inauguration in 1875 was attended by the Mayor of London and Amsterdam, the King Alphonso XII of Spain, and hundreds of members from European high society.
The interior was meticulously designed with intertwining corridors, alcoves and landings to allow for easy movment of large numbers of people; complete with a grand marbled staircase and the grand foyer, acting as the drawing room for all of Paris high society and covered in gilded paintings. The auditorium itself is in a traditional Italian horseshoe shape, seating 1900. The stage is the largest in Europe and can accomodate 450 artists, revealed by the opening of the legendary painted curtain. Garnier himself designed the 7-tonne chandelier sparkling above the audience. In 1896, one of the many chandelier counterweights broke free and killed a concierge, the incident that inspired the scenes in the 1910 novel-turned-musical The Phantom of the Opera. The space above the audotorium in the copula dome was once used strictly for cleaning the chandelier, but has since been transformed into a space for opera and dance rehersals.
The legendary building was initially deemed the Academie Imperiale de Musique, yet with the fall of the Second Empire and the start of the Third Republic, this was aptly changed for the Academie Nationale de Musique, which we see written across the exterior facade to this day. Garnier envisioned his design and the transformation of the surrounding area, and to this day the opulence of the Second Empire lives on in this living monument. The avenue de l'Opéra remains the only large Parisian corridor without trees, as Garnier explicitly prevented Hausmann from adorning the street with trees, arguing that his Palais Garnier was to be the main focus. Palais Garnier became the official name in 1989 with the construction of the Opéra Bastille, and the venue now houses primarily ballets.
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