I shouldn’t really need to say anything more, after seeing the roof of this truly grand establishment you should already realise its impact on the history and culture of French society, let alone, three eager travellers from Australia.
But probably even more outstanding than the grandeur and opulence of this palace is the story of what went on behind the closed doors of our guided tour.
Waking up later than expected, I literally ran to find that the tour had already started, only I was shocked to find that we had enthusiastically joined the FRENCH guided tour – yes, I am being entirely serious, two cultured Australians with barely a single word of French, and an unworthy Parisian resident with non-food related French bordering on the embarrassing, were faced with a 2 hour tour entirely in complicated, sub-specialised FRENCH!
Don’t rush to judge, it was not as terrible or unfortunate as it may seem at first glance. I managed to translate quite a bit, although, I have no reference to check my abilities…
We all agree that despite understanding superficially at best a mere 10-15% of the tour it was quite possibly the best guided tour we had ever joined – the tour guide an instantaneous legend we will never forget – I never did catch her name – coming late and all – and so in perpetuity she shall forever be named “La Reine de la Opera”.
Animated and passionate, captivating in every gesture, with her melodic emphatic voice, she recounted for us the entire history of L’Opera Garnier in what has to be considered a milestone performance fit for the stage as she herself provided heated renditions of the most famous of Operas as well as describing their impact on the politics and society of the times.
It seems that this masterpiece of the second empire, and also the famed setting of The Phantom of the Opera, has another player to be proud of… OUR GUIDE – 5.5 stars out of 5!
After starting in the main theatre and marvelling at the gilt wood carvings and plush red velvet, the perfect acoustics and letting our minds wander to those glorious times when the theatre was packed with decadent individuals – both in the past and in current times – we considered whom would sit in each location and realised that everyone had perfect views of the stage and a first hand view of one of the greatest buildings of all time!
Although, admittedly, a little out of place with the rest of the décor, our guides enthusiasm for the Chagall ceiling seemed to rub off on everyone and the story it told seemed fitting to say the least – it exemplified one man’s love for the arts and seemed to enliven the space.
Moving out into the rest of the building the space instantly opened up into a vast interior of corridors, halls and landings emblazoned with gold and multi-coloured friezes, marble columns and classical statues.
The main staircase, formerly the hive of the various classes, each were kept separated and conspired to change history, of course after enjoying some unforgettable entertainment.
The sumptuous halls especially that of the Grand Foyer, tell a story of Greek mythology and the muses that inspire poetry, music, drama and opera.
Emperor Napoleon III, Baron Haussmann and Charles Garnier managed with millions of Francs and true inspiration to create something special to last the ages… and now with the help of the ultimate tour guide we manage to traverse language barriers to get a real feeling for just how inspirational this place has been for over 130 years!