Actually, our drive through Paris earlier in the week and our later Sunday walk had taken us to the outside of the Paris Opera.
In fact, that earlier Sunday, as we walked around the opera house, we were entranced by the beautiful sculpture celebrating the great musicians.
It was beautiful, but more important, it was such a fine tribute -- a palace made for celebrating the best of music.
It was particularly relevant and touching for Rick, as he places classical music
high on his list of passions.
So, I was anxious for him to see the inside, which I had seen several years before.
The Paris Opera (also known as Opera National de Paris Garnier) was was named after its designer, Charles Garnier.
These days most operas are performed in the Opera Nationale de Paris Bastille, but the Garnier building remains the permanent home of the Paris Ballet.
When one walks into the grand lobby, they are confronted with grand staircases made of marble.
If you have seen "Phantom of the Opera" you may recall the "Masquerade" number, which was "set" in this grand space.
(The "Phantom" story by Paul Leroux was inspired by the Paris opera and, as in the play, there is a small lake under the building. I just adored looking up!)
On each side, small balconies allow a beautiful overhead view.
To put this opulence into perspective from an American history point of view, the building was started in 1862, right during the middle of America's Civil War.
While the North and South were battling one another in the U.S., often destroying the countryside and landmarks in the process, Paris was in a period of growth, with Baron Hausmann designing the streets and Napoleon III living in grand opulence.
It took 13 years to complete the building.It is a masterpiece of marble, bronze and stone.
One of the things that struck us were the monuments, in the form of busts, mostly, to people we'd not heard of. Were they among the composers of the day who have since faded in recognition to all but the serious classical music lover? Or perhaps a patron of the arts.
A wonderful "hall of mirrors," laden with gold, allowed patrons to wander during intermissions and revel in the splendor of the age.
In the chambers surrounding the lobby, you will find beautiful mosaics and paintings.
I was particularly fond of this one...
...and this one, as well.
When I was here in 2009, I couldn't get access to the theater itself, as the ballet was in rehearsal.
It looked as though it might be that way on this trip, too -- until we followed a group of school children and their parents into one of the boxes. This was what we saw!
The theater itself is a feast of red velvet and gold. The graceful balconies sweep over the orchestra in elegant lines.
The real treat is to look up. Above, a false ceiling designed by Marc Chagall.
The ceiling was designed and installed in 1964.
As a Chagall fan, I couldn't resist this, and indeed, had wanted to see it quite desperately. So, I was glad we could slip in!
In some ways, it doesn't fit. And in others, it is so lovely, it doesn't have to!
I can't resist a beautiful theatre. If you can't, this is well worth the visit!
(Later in this series of posts we will visit the Paris Opera House's museum, a gem of a spot for fans of opera and ballet. And don't forget, comments on this and any of the "European Vacation" posts will be included in my upcoming drawing!)
Tips on Visiting the Opera Area
For some great views of the exterior of the opera house, cross to the Opera metro station, right across the street.
Or, go the room of Gallerie Lafayette, the department store nearby, where you'll catch great views of the exterior. (We'll have a post about that store later!)
If you are in a walking mood, leave the front of the opera and head straight -- you'll end up at the Tuileries. (That's the Louvre in the background!)
The traffic circle outside the Louvre around the Metro is a little crazy. Be careful!