DESIGNED BY CHARLES GARNIER for Napoleon III, the opulent Opéra Garnier with its magnificent marble staircase, its wonderful Marc Chagall painted ceiling, its grand chandelier and its sea of red and gold furnishings must rate as one of the most sumptuous opera houses in the world.
Many famous names are associated with the Opéra Garnier but two seem to have captured the popular imagination. Gaston Leroux and Andrew Lloyd Weber. Thanks to an underground lake discovered during construction of the Opéra and a falling counterweight from the grand chandelier, Gaston Leroux was inspired to write his famous play, the Phantom of the Opera, subsequently transformed by Andrew Lloyd Weber into a smash-hit musical of the same name.
Since the construction of the modern Opéra National de Paris in Bastille in 1989 (a hideous building on the outside with the appearance of a grand 2,200 seat cinema on the inside … but with acoustics to die for), the majestic Opéra Garnier is now mainly used for ballet performances.
These days, the Opéra Garnier may be more devoted to the ballet than to the opera but it has music running through its veins. On a Saturday afternoon a group of young musicians assembled on the steps of the Opéra Garnier to strut their stuff to an enthusiastic audience of tourists.
On the steps of the Opéra Garnier:
This is far removed from the classic nineteenth-century French operas of Giacomo Meyerbeer including his most famous, Les Huguenots, which was premiered here in 1836 or the ballet Le Corsaire, originally set to the music of Adolphe Adam and premiered here in 1856. The music of Les Huguenots and Le Corsair performed at this magnificent opera house reflected the music of the time – just as these street musicians are reflecting some of the music of our time. Different maybe – but none the less important.