The Opera Garnier is one stunning building. Phantom notwithstanding.
When we walked to the northern side of the Opera house, what I saw I found rather underwhelming. Apart from the construction going on street-side, the exterior of the building looked like it could do with a bit of cleaning. Thankfully, once we’d entered the scaffold-clad west entrance, and past the ticket office, it became a different story altogether. If you wanted Beaux-Arts, you got Beaux-Arts!
Surprise was an understatement – I could hear necks craning and jaws dropping all around me. The grand staircase was as grand as it could get, as if someone waved a wand and out came this magical space. I was half-expecting any number of Disney princesses to glide down the steps and start singing. And that was only the lobby! While clicking maniacally on my camera, little did I know the wow-factor would get even higher. As I turned to enter another room, I was stunned – like I said the building was stunning – to see a mini-version of Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors. There really is something about gold that commands one’s attention.
Contrary to my planning instincts, I didn’t brush up on the Opera Garnier ahead of our visit so I didn’t exactly know what to expect. Though I prefer a more modern aesthetic and I’m sure Corbusier would disagree, it was one of the most elaborate, even beautiful, interiors I’d ever seen. My little camera was clearly no match to the grandeur of the place.
In a city that has so many iconic landmarks, any of which could stand as a symbol for the city similar to what the Eiffel Tower is now, it’s a wonder that this building isn’t even in the top five. That’s mind-boggling especially after seeing what was inside.
And speaking of the Phantom, he was just nowhere to be found. When the movie version came out in 2004 it only temporarily piqued my interest before being quickly forgotten — until now. The years haven’t been kind at all, the movie is still painfully mediocre, and comparing it to the recent Les Miz movie just makes it appear even worse. Inasmuch as the Phantom of the Opera (Garnier) didn’t make an appearance during our visit, he certainly has fabulous taste in homes.