Beyond the Rotonde des
Abonnés, the Bassin de la Pythia leads to the Grand Escalier with its
magnificent thirty-meter-high vault. Built of marble of various colours, it is
home to the double staircase leading to the foyers and the various floors of
the theatre. At the bottom of the stairs, a true theatre within the theatre,
two female allegories holding torches greet spectators.
In the tradition of Italian
theatre, the horseshoe-shaped "French" auditorium, so-called for the
way the seats are arranged according to their category, was designed for the
audience to see and to be seen. Its metallic structure, hidden by marble, stucco,
velvet and gilding, supports the weight of the 8-ton bronze and crystal
chandelier with its 340 lights. The house curtain was created by theatrical
painters Auguste Rube (1817-1899) and Philippe Chaperon (1823-1906), following
Charles Garnier's instructions. The curtain was replaced by an identical one in
both 1951 and 1996. The ceiling painted by Marc Chagall and commissioned by the
Minister of Culture André Malraux was inaugurated on September 23, 1964.
At the end of a long gallery is the Rotunde du Glacier, a fresh and bright rotunda with a ceiling painted by Clairin (1843-1919) and featuring dancing bacchantes and fauna, along with tapestries illustrating different refreshments as well as fishing and hunting. Completed after the opening of the Palais Garnier, this salon evokes the aesthetic of the Belle Époque.
The vault of the Avant-Foyer is covered with mosaics of shimmering colours on a gold background. The view of the Grand Staircase is spectacular. The play of light between mirrors and windows in the Grand Foyer further accentuates the latter's vast dimensions. The ceiling painted by Paul Baudry (1828-1886) features themes from the history of music.
The lyre is the main element: it reigns over all the decorative vocabulary, be it on capitals, heating grids or doorknobs. A copy of Charles Garnier's bust by the sculptor Carpeaux (1827-1875) is located in the centre of the foyer, near a window looking down the Avenue de l'Opera towards the Louvre. The view can be enjoyed even more from the loggia. The Salons du Soleil et de la Lune offer a symbolic and poetic transition to the other areas.
The collections of the Library-Museum of the Opera (National Library of France) conserve three centuries of the theatre's history. The museum gallery houses a permanent exhibition of paintings, drawings, photographs and set models. After the fall of the Empire, the premises were never completed: in the staircase leading to the temporary exhibition hall, remain the massive stone blocks dating from 1870. Access to the reading room, located in the Rotunde de l'Empereur, is restricted to researchers.
The Galérie de l'Orchestre
offers a last glance of the Palais Garnier and an audiovisual exhibition
recounting its history. The Grand Vestibule, watched over by the statues of the
four composers Rameau, Lully, Gluck and Handel, leads to the exit.
The backstage areas of the
Palais Garnier are fascinating both for their sheer size and for the intense
activity that takes place before, during and after performances. In years gone
by accessible to subscribers alone and only during intervals, they are now
restricted to artists and technicians.
Foyer de la Danse is a veritable institution playing a major role in the
traditions of the Paris Opera. For many years it was open to a select public:
the subscribers. Serving as a salon, a place for courting and a meeting area
all at once, the Foyer de la Danse provided a model or a source of inspiration
for many painters and writers, including Balzac and Degas, just to mention two
of the most famous.
Subscribers are no longer admitted to the Foyer de la Danse, which is now the exclusive domain of dancers from the ballet, who are happy to have a rehearsal studio just a few steps from the stage. It is used before, during and sometimes after performances. It is where the dancers warm up and gather when the ballet master or the Director of Dance needs to speak to them.
Mysterious as it may appear, the Foyer de la Danse is not entirely inaccessible. Situated directly behind the stage, it can be used to provide additional depth once the iron backstage doors are opened, as they were, for example, for Richard Strauss's Capriccio directed by Robert Carsen (a production created at the Paris Opera in 2004). But the Foyer de la Danse is most frequently seen by the general public during the traditional parade by the Corps de Ballet.
Until June 15 2016, take a plunge into the world of costumes during your visit to the Palais Garnier.
Discover unique pieces, created in our workshops, each of them born of time-honoured skills.