The Garnier Opera House, named after its architect, was referred to as the Paris Opera until the construction of the Bastille opera house in 1989. Located in the center of Paris, in the 9th arrondissement, near the famous department stores and the Boulevard Haussmann, it is one of the essential sites of Paris’ architectural and cultural heritage. During your stay, it would be a shame to miss such a magnificent building. Paris Attitude has put together a little foretaste of this famous monument.
History of the Opera
This opera house was built under Napoleon III who, following an assassination attempt at the old opera house on the Rue Peletier, decided to commission the construction of an “imperial music and dance academy,” for the upper bourgeoisie. In 1860 a competition was launched to find the architect who would be tasked with the project. Competing were famous architects like Haussmann and Viollet-le-Duc, but the winner was a young, previously untested architect: Charles Garnier. It was also during construction of the opera house that the avenue with the same name came to be. In fact, Napoléon III had Haussmann construct an avenue connecting the Tuileries palace, where he lived, and the opera house. This avenue was therefore not part of the city redevelopment plan that would reshape Paris. In fact it was just a single road cut by Haussmann for no other purpose and to protect the emperor’s safety. This also enabled the creation of opulent buildings housing residences, but above all banks and luxury boutiques. Do you know the story of how Baron Haussmann transformed Paris?
The Legend of the Phantom of the Opera
It is also a place filled with history and legends. Who hasn’t heard of the phantom of the Garnier opera house? It all started in 1873, when a young pianist named Ernest lost his fiancée, a ballerina, in the fire that ravaged the Rue Peletier conservatory, and had his face partially burned by the flames. Disfigured and despondent, he sought refuge in the underground passages beneath the new opera house, then under construction, until his death. In 1910, Gaston Leroux used this story as the basis for his novel, “The Phantom of the Opera,” thus reviving the legend. Through his tale, the author drew inspiration from events that were strange to say the least, and that had been attributed to Ernest: suspicious death, an opera house chandelier falling on a spectator sitting in seat number 13… Bad luck or curse? In any case, you can still go to dressing room number 5, which is the one occupied by the “phantom,” and ask him the question if you get the chance…
Did you know? That there is an artificial lake under the Garnier opera house? During the construction of the opera house, the architect realized that work was being carried out below the water table, and the job site was flooded several times. Garnier then got the idea to build a cistern and let the water in, which stopped the flooding and helped stabilize the building. Today it is mainly used as a backup reserve an event of the fire or as a training spot for divers. It is also inhabited by carp, which are fed by opera house technicians.