A morning at the Opera

So, when was the last time you took a school field trip?

For most of us, it’s probably been a while. For me, though, it was just yesterday, and it was pretty cool.

I haven’t written much about my studies this semester, but I will in the near future. In a nutshell, after four semesters of French courses at one school, I’m now enrolled in another one for what should be my final semester of French. My classes are very different this time around. There’s much less grammar and literature and much more written and oral expression. Yesterday, in fact, our grammar professor was absent, so our oral expression professor used that two-hour time slot to take us on a field trip to …

the Paris Opera! 

Now, before you get overly excited for us, we didn’t have tickets to a literal “matinée” performance of Rigoletto; instead, we just took a self-guided tour. It was still a much cooler way to spend two hours than reviewing French conjunctions would have been — even for this grammar nerd.

But before we get to the photos, a little of history of the Paris Opera …

The Paris Opera was founded in1669 under Louis XIV and has operated since then as France’s primary opera company. It is also the birthplace of classical ballet as we know it today, and ballet remains an integral part of the company’s repertoire. The Paris Opera has been housed in fourteen different theaters during its 350-year history and currently operates out of two locations in Paris: the modern, 2700-seat Opéra Bastille, which opened its doors in 1989, and the older, 1970-seat Palais Garnier, which opened its doors in 1875. Interestingly, almost all of the operas produced by the Paris Opera are now performed at the Opéra Bastille, and the Palais Garnier is reserved primarily for ballet. It was this older landmark that was the destination of our field trip yesterday morning …

Le Palais Garnier, at Place de l'Opéra © 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved
Le Palais Garnier, at Place de l’Opéra © 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

This magnificent building was commissioned in 1860 on the order of Emperor Napoleon III as part of the great Parisian renewal project carried out by Baron Haussmann. Named for the architect who designed it, the Palais Garnier’s construction lasted almost 15 years because of interruptions caused by events of that turbulent period, including the Franco-Prussian War, the fall of the Second Empire, and the rise and fall of the Paris Commune. PhantomSince opening its doors in January 1875, it has impressed visitors with his rich baroque architecture and is definitely among the most famous opera houses in the world. Two anecdotes are also worth mentioning: The Palais Garnier is the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1911 novel The Phantom of the Opera, as well as subsequent film adaptations and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1986 musical based on the novel. It is also the architectural inspiration for the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

And, now, the photos …

In the gallery below, you will see photos from our visit, including a few I snapped during set preparation for last night’s performance of Prokofiev‘s ballet Cendrillon (Cinderella).

To open the gallery, simply click on one of the photos below (or on a white space if nothing appears). You will then be able then scroll through all of the photos in a larger format.

Enjoy the show!

© 2013 Samuel Michael Bell, all rights reserved

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3 thoughts on “A morning at the Opera

  1. Looks very interesting and absolutely stunning! How practical for me to see the photos on your blog, as I couldn’t go myself… I made my deadline, though, and I’ll definitely have to take a closer look at this place another time! Thanks for the tour!

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