Unless you’ve attended the Stella McCartney show during fashion week in Paris (*which can you believe fashion month is NEXT WEEK! Where did summer gooooo???) it’s possible you’ve never seen inside the Palais Garnier. Built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera, and named in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier, its walls tell more than just the exquisite interiors might suggest.
Ok, so anyone can take a tour, and in fact, you should – it’s awesome! But we had a slightly more exclusive tour if you will, a behind the scenes look into the history of the Palais Garnier, guided by Antoine, followed by a peak inside the inner-workings of the ballet with the “star of the Paris Opera,” Josua Hoffalt.
As the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera, the main building’s interior of interweaving corridors, stairwells, alcoves and landings was the perfect setting with the sumptuous Baroque characteristics. The dual mirrors on either sides of the grand staircase so ladies could check that their crinoline dresses were okay. The balconies crafted for viewing everyone coming into the space – people watching at its finest. A public moment! The gold lamps with salamander details, animals that don’t burn, were meant to protect the theatre and the original gas pipes. Known as one of the most expensive buildings built during the Second Empire, there are 45 different marbles throughout. And to add to the glamour, in 1964 after the theatre was burned down from an electrical fire, Chagall, yes that one, redid the ceilings with a painting depicting scenes from operas by 14 composers.
And then, then we went backstage – where Josua and the corps de ballet rehearses, where the conservatory exists for the “little rats”, the stunning costumes are created and meticulously archived, and of course, the magical spherical rehearsal space that overlooks all of Paris. All of that fantasy co-existing with what it actually takes to put a production onstage. Not to mention the special knowledge of learning that the mini stage behind the stage was originally created for rich men to view the ballerinas and choose one … It isn’t all gold that glitters!
If it wasn’t so stunning, it might be a bit overwhelming to take in on one afternoon! Lucky for everyone, there’s a library, a gallery shop, and a restaurant to enjoy before the curtains rise. If only Napoleon III had been so clever as to include such necessities in his original plans ;) ….