Dans les coulisses

garnier maquetteYou probably already know Paris’ Opéra Garnier for its flamboyant exterior or maybe for the story of the Phantom, written by Gaston Leroux. It’s been classified as a historical monument for 90 years, but the parts that are behind the scenes are equally fascinating. Designed by Charles Garner, the 2,000 seat auditorium is just the beginning. There are 17 floors in total, as better appreciated in this model of the interior, above.

plafond2Starting at the top, there is the level known as the collier de perles or the “pearl necklace” for the white globes of the lamps that encircle the ceiling. From this catwalk, you will have a wonderful view of the ceiling by Marc Chagall and the 2.5 ton chandelier. It used to be gas lit, but has been electrified since the beginning of the last century.

loge 5Moving down to the boxes, the most famous one is loge 5, the fictitious exclusive vantage point of the Phantom. He was ostensibly able to come and go thanks to a hollow column. Tourists tap it in vain. It’s as solid as the myth is enduring.

cisternSpeaking of the myth, according to the story, there is a lake beneath the opera house, where the Phantom rowed his boat. Five floors below the stage there is une cuve, or a cistern, that contains the nappe phréatique, or groundwater, that was uncovered during construction. Garnier tried in vain to drain the water, considerably delaying construction. He couldn’t stem the water that flows abundantly beneath the city. While there is no Phantom and no boat in the cistern, there are eels and carp. Let’s go back upstairs!

Garnier toitTo chase away the gloom of the cistern, finish your dans les coulisses (dahn lay kooleese), or “behind the scenes” tour on the roof of the Opéra Garnier. Here, you’ll be 250 feet above the ground and you’ll enjoy one of the best views in the city.

513T0D0V6ML__SL75_Charles Garnier’s Paris Opera: Architectural Empathy and the Renaissance of French Classicism

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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