Inaugurated in August 1821, the theatre in the rue Le Peletier was the “home” of grand opera, where all the great masterpieces in the genre were first performed. Hastily erected, it replaced the opera house in the rue Richelieu which was demolished after the assassination of the Duke de Berry, heir to the French crown.
A “temporary” edifice, the theatre was built mainly of wood. The vast dimensions of the stage were ideal for the sumptuous productions that grand opera called for. A place for socialising as much as for performance, the theatre was one of the bastions of Parisian upper-class social life and inspired numerous artists such as Théophile Gautier and Edgar Degas.
On 14th January 1858, as they were arriving at the opera house, Napoléon III and the Empress Eugénie were victims of an assassination attempt by Italian revolutionaries led by Felice Orsini. This failed attack sealed the fate of the opera house and prompted the announcement of a competition for the construction of a new opera house, which was won by Charles Garnier. Le Peletier opera house was destroyed in a fire during the night of the 28th to 29th October 1873, a disaster that accelerated work to complete the new opera house.
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