Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Night at the Opera

I suppose this post should really be called "A Day at the Opera," but I couldn't resist the play on the title of the Marx Brothers movie!
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.
A look at the clip above gives you an idea of the Paris Opera -- I don't believe the movie was filed on location here, though.

(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!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Day of Music

This and other posts are part of the "Paris Tour" party on Anita's blog, "Castles, Crowns and Cottages." The links are at the bottom of her lovely post HERE.) 

One of Rick's big dreams for his Parisian vacation was visiting the luthiers and guitar shops, with an eye toward choosing a new guitar for himself.
The district in Paris where there are multitudes of shops is a street called Rue du Rome and some of its sidestreets.
So, on another rainy day, we were off!
The streets in this area are named after the capitol cities of Europe -- it's no surprise that the Metro stop was called Europe.
The first shop we visited was one he'd heard of from the luthier we met on our first day, but they were closed for lunch.
So, we moved to the next one, where a lovely shop owner showed Rick many guitars, all of which he played.
Then we asked the shop keeper to play one, which was quite delightful!
After visiting the first shop, we were ready for lunch. The cafe on the corner looked nearby and inviting. 
Called La Lutetia, we were to discover a totally decadent and delicious omelet there! 
I love how dogs are present in cafes, restaurants and stores of Paris!
After lunch, we returned to our original destination. The shopkeeper was in the back, playing.
He invited Rick to do the same. While he played (and played and played), I made good tracks in my journal, settled into the comfy sofa in the front of the store.
Rick left that store with some music, but no guitar. The price ($10,000) and the thought of customs duty was a little bit overwhelming.
We window shopped around the area, finding a variety of fascinating shops.
A music shop offered some good deals on the sidewalk.
Inside, it was simply enormous, packed with sheet music.
Max Eschig was a publisher who was noted for his guitar publications. His company had once been at 48 Rue du Rome -- so of course, we had to take a photo!
All in all, our time at Rue du Rome was delightful -- if you are a serious music fan, you could do worse than spending all or part of a day trying out instruments.
And if you're a beginner, another version of the franchise could be found here, along with terrific CDs and sheet music.
After, we walked down toward the opera, where we would go tomorrow and did a bit of window shopping.
The displays were fabulous!
But we opted to spend our money at our favorite department store, BHV, located near Jerry's apartment. It's not inexpensive, but it's less than the others and the merchandise is as lovely.
Jerry fixed us a nice dinner and we had to agree that despite the rain, we had a lovely day!

Lessons from Paris

If you are planning a day like this -- interesting to one person, less so to the other, be sure to pack a book or journal. That well could be your only time to write in it -- or postcards, for that matter -- and your time will pass quickly.

Just because you window shop or even go into a grand store, remember, you may be able to get quite similar merchandise less expensively -- be a smart shopper and don't let the fabulous displays or emotion of the moment get in your way!

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