Paris – Opéra Quarter: Opéra National de Paris Garnier – Le Chant et Médaillon de Pergolèse

Maurice Ravel
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Paris – Opéra Quarter: Opéra National de Paris Garnier – Le Chant et Médaillon de Pergolèse
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

Image by wallyg
Paul Dubois’s sculpture, Le Chant (Song) was erected on the main facade of Opéra National de Paris Garnier, between 1860 and 1869.

Hanging over Le Chant is Charles-Alphonse-Achille Gumery’s medallian of Giovanni Battista Pergolèse. Pergolèse, or Pergolesi(1710–1736) was an Italian composer, violinist and organist and one was one of the most important early figures in opera buffa (comic opera).

The Palais Garnier is the thirteenth theatre to house the Paris Opera since it was founded by Louis XIV. It was built on the orders of Napoleon III as part of the great Parisian reconstruction project carried out by Baron Haussmann. The project for an opera house was put out to competition and was won by Charles Garnier, an unknown 35-year-old architect. The Neo-Baroque masterpiece took fifteen years to build, from from 1860 to 1875, and was interrupted by numerous incidents, including the 1870 war, the fall of the Empire and the Commune.

Upon its inauguration on January 15, 1875, the opera house was officially named the Académie Nationale de Musique – Théâtre de l’Opéra. It retained this title until 1978 when it was re-named the Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris. After the opera company chose the Opéra Bastille as their principal theatre upon its completion in 1989, the theatre was re-named as the Palais Garnier, though its more official name, the Académie Nationale de Musique, is still sprawled above the columns of its front façade. In spite of the change of names and the Opera company’s relocation to the Opéra Bastille, the Palais Garnier is still known by many people as the Paris Opéra, as have all of the many theatres which have served as the principal venues of the Parisian Opera and Ballet since its founding.

Although slightly smaller in scale than its predecessor, the Théâtre de l’Académie Royale de Musique, the Palais Garnier consists of 11,000 square metres (118,404 square feet), seats an audience of roughly 2,200 under a central chandelier which weighs over six tons, and has a huge stage with room to accommodate up to 450 artists. An ornate building, the style is monumental, opulently decorated with elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and lavish statuary, many of which portray the deities from Greek mythology. Between the columns of the theatre’s front façade, there are bronze busts of many of the great composers. The interior consists of interweaving corridors, stairwells, alcoves and landings allowing the movement of large numbers of people and space for socializing during intermission. Rich with velvet, gold leaf, and cherubs and nymphs, the interior is characteristic of Baroque sumptuousness. The Palais Garnier’s style is considered Beaux-Arts because it incorporates classical principles and exterior ornamentation.

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