At Palais Garnier

1 year ago by


Erik Melvin

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.

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

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.

At Palais Garnier
palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

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!

At Palais Garnier
palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo
At Palais Garnier

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

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 ;) ….

palais garnier opera paris josua hoffalt garance dore photo

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo

palais garnier opera paris garance dore photo
At Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier | 8 Rue Scribe, 75009 Paris, France


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  • Magnifique ! Splendide !

    Amelie – Charles Ray and Coco

  • beautiful post, wonderful pictures. your ballet-posts are always interesting, brie. the two of you could make a wonderful and inspiring book about ballet!

  • superbe reportage ! toutes les photos sont belles, mais la dernière est simplement merveilleuse: elle représente tout ce qu’est Paris et ce que peut inspirer cette ville.

  • Magnifiques photos et reportage, comme d’habitude. Quel monde feerique !
    Dans les annees 70, j’ai eu la chance d’assister au ballet Gisele avec N.Pontois et Cyril Atanassof puis N.Pontois et R.Noureev. Choregraphie d’une grande beaute, ballet tres emouvant, danseurs sublimes.

  • My favorite building in the world! Beautiful pictures and love the write up. A dream of mine is to see a ballet there. xoxo

  • Brie this was wonderful!
    Such beautiful pictures and the history you have given us was just great to read. Thank you for choosing to visit and share this, it was so interesting :)

  • Your narrative is as lovely as the photos.

  • amy serpa September, 2 2016, 2:43 / Reply

    It’s truly my favorite building in Paris. Jealous of your backstage tour…the ballet splits its time between this venue and the new one….there is no comparison.

  • Madame Stramash September, 2 2016, 2:44 / Reply

    Beautiful, beautiful photos of an utterly magical building. And how lovely to have had a backstage tour. But you did make me smile: many people have seen the inside of the Opera Garnier without ever having seen a Stella McCartney show. (Although that would be lovely, too ;-) ) But this was an utterly gorgeous post, of one of my favourite places, thank you.

  • Garnier est effectivement sublime à visiter; j’ai pu le faire une fois avec un ami qui y travaillait comme régisseur; nous avons même pu voir la rivière qui passe sous l’Opéra; nous sommes descendus sous la scène, dans les endroits où les machinistes font monter et descendre les morceaux de scène; nous étions montés dans les cintres, d’où ils font monter et descendre les décors. Un opéra est toujours magique parce que les artisans savent créer un monde de fantasmagorie avec les décors, les illusions, les costumes, accessoires, maquillages, etc… et bien sûr la musique.
    PS La salamandre n’est pas un insecte mais un batracien, comme les grenouilles. La légende dit qu’elle est capable de traverser un feu sans brûler.
    Belle soirée

  • My goodness!! Such stunning photographs. What a breath taking place.


  • Superbes photos et je confirme que c est un endroit magique à visiter. Nous l avons fait avec nos enfants de 8 et 10 ans. Un régal en famille!
    Mon rêve. ..assister à la présentation d un balai…

  • Thanks… the non-tourist guide to beautiful Paris – tres jolie! x

  • This is an amaaazingly beautiful post. And that ceiling. Wow. The next time I go to Paris this is a must on my list.

    Thank you for the beautiful words and photography.

  • Rouletabille September, 3 2016, 3:07 / Reply

    Juste pour info, Chagall n’a pas repeint le plafond suite à un incendie, le décor original est toujours là, en dessous. C’était une commande dans l’optique de moderniser, esthétiquement discutable, à mon avis.

  • Anastasia September, 3 2016, 5:12 / Reply

    Purely Marvellous! I have been to the Palais Garnier and I am so glad that, with your beautiful photos, you reminded me of it…
    Bonne Journee!!

  • Sabrina D. September, 3 2016, 10:29 / Reply

    My favorite Opera House. Nothing can beat the Chagall ceiling and magic of the performing arts.

    Thanks for sharing it!

  • Sunny Side September, 3 2016, 1:14 / Reply

    Wow c’est la plus belle photo que j’ai jamais vue du plafond Chagall !!! Dommage que B.Millepied soit parti, il dépoussièrait les lieux en améliorant les conditions de travail des danseurs.

  • Heartbreaking beauty….the kind we will never create again. The craftspeople simply don’t exist anymore.

  • C’est vraimennt un endroit magifique que je n’ai aps eu la chance de visiter! Donc un grand merci pour cet article!!


  • That is so gorgeous!!

  • C’est un endroit magique que j’ai eu la chance de visiter et de pouvoir voir un spectacle dans tous les recoins de l’Opéra grâce à Benjamin Millepied encore présent. Ce lieu est vraiment exceptionnel et chargé d’histoire.

  • Très beau post. Et une idée de rubrique à poursuivre!? Vous avez la chance de beaucoup voyager: inondez-nous de la beauté “faite homme”. En ces temps de progression de la barbarie, faire l’éloge de la civilisation, sous toutes ses formes serait un bel acte de résistance. Merci d’avance.

  • Absolument sublime ! Merci pour ces photos !!!

  • Marie Laure September, 6 2016, 7:11 / Reply

    Aaahhh… j’y retourne !

  • Et sous l’Opéra il y a un lac très sombre ( certains disent que c’est pour l’acoustique…), tout en dessous de la scène, dans lequel les pompiers de Paris vont plonger pour s’exercer. :)

  • I love all of your posts, but posts like these hold a special place in my heart, the posts where as you scroll down you feel the tears start come up. Absolutely beautiful! Sublime!

  • Hey Garance et toute la team :)
    Vous devriez jeter un coup d’oeil a cet article/petition de Stéphane Lissner.
    Malheureusement ce batiment historique est en train d’etre defigurer dans le silence total :

    Merci pour ces photos spendide de l’Opera! :)

  • Taking a break while I re-work my blog to envelope myself with some! Though I did not attend Stella McCartny’s show, I have, indeed, been inside this architectural slice of heaven! I didn’t want to leave — ever — even with Galleries Lafayette and Printemps steps away! Absolute Heaven!

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