The Opéra Garnier opera house is one of the most beautiful treasures of the Parisian heritage. Set at the end of the Avenue de l’Opéra, the perspective opening on to this pharaonic palace amazes the inhabitants of the capital as much as tourists. True temple for culture, it houses all year around a rich music program. But the Opéra Garnier is also marked by mystery and legends. Here are three uncommon little stories about this Parisian monument!
The monumental work of an illustrious stranger
It’s hard to believe it today, but it’s true: when he’s been entrusted with this monumental project, Charles Garnier was still a stranger. It’s thanks to a contest to build an “imperial academy for music and dance” in 1860 that the 35-year-old architect – who won the contest – got to be known. Empress Eugenie is said to have been very skeptical when she saw the blueprints: “What’s this style? It’s not a style!.... It’s not Greek nor Louis XV, nor even Louis XVI” she would have said. And Charles Garnier answered:” No, those styles have had their time. This is Napoleon III! And you are complaining!”.
The Phantom of the Opera, between myth and reality
When we think about the Opéra Garnier, we can also think about the Phantom of the Opera, the novel written by Gaston Leroux that fascinates, and stills keeps a veil of mystery on this major monument in Paris. Behind the legend could be found some real facts. On May 20th, 1896, during a performance of Faust, a huge chandelier gave way under its own weight and crashes on spectators, making one victim. In Gaston Leroux’s novel, a passage inspired by this tragic event involves the mysterious Phantom of the Opera. By the way, the box number 5 is still given to him.
Under the stage, the lake
This is a particularity that has been made famous by Gaston Leroux in his novel, and this is no urban legend. An underground lake is to be found underneath the Opéra Garnier. Closed to the general public, this lake is filled with carps and has complicated the construction of the opera house: as it is impossible to empty out this groundwater table, it would ultimately be concreted over. Today, there are not many people who are allowed to go there, but if you feel very curious, you can give it a look thanks to a virtual reality tour.
Opéra de Paris - Palais Garnier
8 Rue Scribe
75009 Paris 9
Métro ligne 3, 7 ou 8 station "Opéra", RER A station "Auber"