The original setting of Gaston Leroux’s gothic novel ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, the Paris Opera house (or Opéra Garnier as it’s known in French) is the most famous opera house in the world – and a must-see on any Paris holiday!
Many tourists only visit the exterior of the Opéra theatre, but it’s what is inside that truly marvels. The Beaux Arts interior is probably the most expensive and fabulous masterpiece in Paris. The Grand Staircase is just one its famous features; leading to the foyers and different levels of the auditorium. Imagine all the well-dressed ladies of Parisian high society who have walked up and down this staircase – even Audrey Hepburn did it dressed in Givenchy for the 1957 film ‘Funny Face’.
The Grand Staircase with its multi-levels and winding stairs is not just an architectural marvel – it was designed with people-watching in mind. During the Belle Époque era the opera was a place for the people of high society to see and be seen in all their glorious gowns and jewels. In fact, you’ll notice the opera house is surrounded by numerous banks so that the aristocracy could pick up their most expensive jewellery on the way to the opera, and then safely return them under lock and key as soon as the curtain fell.
The ceiling of the auditorium is my favourite. A masterpiece by modernist painter Marc Chagall shows colourful dancers, composers and actors. And from its centre, a beautiful crystal and bronze chandelier (weighing 7 tons – or about the size of an elephant!) hangs. In 1896, one of the counterweights fell during a performance and killed an audience member. This event later inspired the famous chandelier crash in ‘The Phantom of the Opera’.
Want to make the most of your trip to the Paris Opéra? Read on to find out how…
See a Show
If you would like to take in a performance while traveling, you will need to book far in advance to secure seats. Operas and ballets begin at night with shows varying according to the season, and prices range from less than 100 euros to over 200 euros. But if you have patience, you can always buy a last minute ticket (1 hour before the opening) for less than 20 euros and voilà, you are at the opera!
Beginning May 27 to June 14 you can catch a ballet performance of Giselle starring Danseuse Étoile (and Piaget brand ambassadress) Dorothée Gilbert. First performed in Paris in 1841, the ballet has travelled all over the world and is a jewel in the crown of the repertoire.
Take a Guided Tour
If you can’t snag tickets for a show, don’t worry – you can still visit the Palais Garnier during the day with a guided tour. Discover all the secrets of the theatre with a personal guided tour in French or English, or take off on your own with an audioguide tour in Chinese.
Hours: Daily from 10AM to 5PM. From mid-July to August from 10AM to 6PM. The last admission is 30 minutes before closing. Guided tours leave daily at 11:30AM or 2:30PM.
Fees: General admission: 11€, Audioguides: 5€, Guided tours: 15.50€
Visit an Exhibition
Plunge into the magical world of costumes during your visit to the Palais Garnier.
Discover the unique pieces created in the Palais Garnier workshops by skilled artisans exemplifying French savoir-faire. From now until June 15, 2016.
Once you’re finished exploring the opulence of the Opéra, follow the Rue de la Paix on your right towards the Place Vendôme to visit the most famous streets of luxury shopping in Paris, especially for high jewellery and watches!
For more information visit the Opéra de Paris website at: www.operadeparis.fr/en
Pictures: Brandie Raasch, Writer: Erin Stranyak
Special thank you to Cultival for organising our private tour of the Opéra Garnier!