In 1878, three years after the inauguration of his monument, Charles Garnier wrote in his "New Opera": "Opera is a rich art - a synthesis of the arts - and the place where people come to enjoy it must prepare, accompany and complete their pleasure. The building must be harmonious: the architectural equivalent of opera in the performing arts."
A century and a half later, the Palais Garnier never ceases to amaze the visitor: its architect of genius thought out every inch of the building, combining all the arts in a subtle alchemy and a succession of architectural shocks: on the glinting gilt facade, masks, festoons and mosaic backgrounds intertwine their reflections in a polyphony of marbles from multiple origins; extraordinary sculptures adorn pediments, loggias and foreparts and rise proudly towards the sky.
Once inside, the staircase, a theatrical stage in its own right, offers a foretaste of what will take place later on stage. We feel the sensation of being welcomed into a temple of the spirit, a baroque decor and an abundance of colours.
Gérard Fontaine invites us to undertake an exhaustive exploration of the Opera to discover from every imaginable point of view the building dreamt up and realized by Charles Garnier. This introduction leads us through a secret and magnificent labyrinth as far the auditorium, the stage and the Foyer de la danse where the paintings and sculptures, decorating every nook and cranny, bear silent witness to thousands of performances and human adventures.
In this brisk and lively narrative, published in view of the 350th anniversary of the institution that today manages the Opéra Bastille and the Palais Garnier, we also encounter the thoughts of Charles Garnier through selected quotes. All the paintings and sculptures are also inventoried. Finally the "Garnier palette" describes techniques and materials chosen by the architect. The whole work is accompanied by superb photographs from Jean-Pierre Delagarde who brilliantly conveys the atmosphere of this mythical place, this total work of art.
- Introduction: an architectural equivalent of opera
- A monument that sings and dances
- Facade and stage alike
- The iconostasis: the exterior sculptures
- Initiatory paths
- The grand staircase
- Around the auditorium
- The heart of the theatre: the auditorium
- The stage and the foyer de la danse
- During the intervals: foyers, salons and galleries
- The grand foyer
- Conclusion: an opera in front of the opera
- The materials of the immaterial: Charles Garnier's palette
- Biographical notes
Doctor of Philosophy and cultural administrator,
Gérard Fontaine is a renowned specialist on the Opéra to which he has paid
tribute many times, particularly with Décor d’opéra : un rêve éveillé
(Flammarion, 1996), Palais Garnier, le fantasme de l’opéra (Agnès Viénot
Editions, 1999). For Éditions du patrimoine in partnership with the Paris Opera
he has published: L’Opéra de Charles Garnier, architecture et décor extérieur
(2000); Palais Garnier, Opéra national de Paris, "Routes" collection
(2001); Visages de marbres et d’airain, la collection des bustes du Palais
Garnier, "Thematics" collection (2003)