The Phantom of the Opera....house

Trip Start Sep 13, 2012
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Trip End Dec 21, 2013


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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Sunday, October 21, 2012

Two weeks ago, (10-18-12), we took a tour of the Opera Garnier, also known as Le Palais Garnier. When I walked out of the Opera metro stop, I was facing away from the building, but as I turned around, the opera house rose up over the whole area: a stunning figure of green and gold amongst waves of grey, stoic structures. 

The opera house was inaugurated for L'Academie National de Musique in 1875. It took almost 20 years to built because the workers had a few construction delays. When they dug down to lay the foundation to the building, they found an underground lake. This lake is still under the opera house today, but is, unfortunately, not open to the public. Garneir decided not to drain the lake for two reasons: 1) the body of water gave great acoustics to the building. 2) if the opera house caught on fire, there would be water on hand to put it out instead of waiting for the 19th century firefighters. I also think the building was delayed because there was a war of some sort in history...I'm not sure exactly. 

When novelist Gaston Leroux toured the opera house in the early 1900s, he took a particular interest in the lake. It sparked an idea for a novel, one that would become famous all over the world and throughout time, eventually becoming a musical in the 1980s thanks to a Mr. Andrew Lloyd Weber: The Phantom of the Opera. According to the building's legend, there really is a 'phantom' of sorts that exists in the opera house. With in the first few years of the house opening, may of the singers were recorded on vynal records. Someone, (I want to say Garneir, but i'm not sure), put some of those recordings in a case and hid them in a room in the house, which he then sealed off, leaving the instructions not to open it for 100 years. A few years back, (2008 or 9 i want to say), the time came for the wall to be taken down and door to be opened to the time capsule. When it was opened, the records were discovered and played; voices from 100 years in the past reverberated through the opera house as if they had never left: The Phantoms of the Opera house. 
 
To enter the opera house, you have to enter through the back where there is a red carpet ramp and huge statues of Liberty and Charles Garnier. The ramp was built and designed by Garneir for the Emperor, Napoleon III's, private use so he could get to and from his box seat safely in his carriage. There were many attempts on his life, so many precautions had to be taken. Once past the ticket booths, the hall, (for the common people) opens up into a round entrance/meeting area. Everywhere you look, everything from floor to ceiling is amazing marble artwork. When you walk through the entrance hall to the grand staircase, it is even more amazing. I don't know how the artist and builders made everything so beautiful. The Grand staircase is made of entirely marble, even the hand rails are wonderfully smooth.

They are so smooth that, when we were descending the staircase to leave the house, Antonio and Kerem tried to slide down them. Neither one were very graceful, but it was entertaining to watch. If i spent a lot of time in the opera house, (because i was in a show or something), i would try to perfect the sliding method so that that would be my mode of transportation. 

Anyway, back to the architecture. The lamps on the staircases are black statues of naked women holding small chandeliers, (now with light bulbs, but originally with candles - would have loved to see it then), and there are several balconies off the second floor. It is a room you can spend hours in just standing in one place and looking around you. As you walk up the massive staircase, you have no choice but to look up to the ceiling, where you will find the most amazing artwork. It seems that the more places we tour, the better the artwork becomes. Versailles was suppose to be the most amazing in the world, but the Garneir Opera house easily surpasses it. The ceiling is several floors high, so it feels like you are looking up to heaven and seeing everything more than blue sky and clouds. 

On our tour, we were also able to walk through the theater and the Hall of Mirrors. The theater is the most spectacular theater i have ever seen. All of the chairs are an elegant, red velvet, and the stage has a huge, classic, red curtain. A massive chandelier hangs from the ceiling, giving the round hall an old fashion look. The art above the chandelier is modern in a way that would be out of place in any other classical setting, but works here. The style is very similar a mural we saw in that terrible modern art museum in Saint Paul, (in Cannes). Although, this painting is actually good. The Hall of Mirrors in the opera house is designed after the Hall in the Palace at Versailles, sans mirrors. It is shorter in both height and length than the one in Versailles, but the design is similar with the chandeliers lighting the long hall. I actually like the opera house's more than the palaces; it glows like fire. When there is a show in the evening, this room is turned into the bar. Outside of the hall of mirrors, there is a balcony looking over L'Avenue de l'Opera. Melanie Montoya and I took turns taking pictures of each other sitting on the railing. One of the scariest thing i've done all trip. I thought for sure i'd fall to my death on the opera steps below.

Later that evening, most of the group went out to dinner for Afsy and Andrew's birthday. We used food vouchers that the program gave us to go to a fancy restaurant. We did not all arrive in one group, so as more people arrived, we had to add more tables to our group. In the end, we had six tables lined up in one long table, totaling 16, (three more than the reservation). The place was not very big, so we took up most of the space. The waiter probably was not too happy with us. We were served duck and snails and raw meat...well if someone ordered it...which they did. Everyone tried Catherine's raw meat patty and raw egg. It was nasty. Luckily, her meal came with mashed potatoes so she had something to eat. We made a discovery about drinks that night, too. Gigi ordered some whiskey "a la glace", (with ice), but either the waiter didn't hear her or he ignored her request because when her drink arrived it was one shot amount of whiskey in a three shot class. Ice would have fit, but it just wasn't there. When we asked another day at the office, Jane told us it was because the french don't have their drinks with ice. That doesn't really make sense since that is how you keep drinks cold, but whatever. Our evening out was all together pretty great. It was good to have almost everyone together since we don't get to see much of each other all at once because we all have different classes. We were going to sing for Afsy and Andrew, but there were other people in the restaurant and we would have definitely been noticed.  
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