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Opera Garnier the Versailles of Opera Houses
History of the Paris Opera Palais Garnier, Opéra National de Paris or Opéra Garnier, or more known commonly as the Paris Opera, is generally considered to be one of the most important buildings in Paris. It’s actually not as old as you might think. In 1860, the city of Paris held a contest to choose a design for the new opera house. It was at a time when Paris was undergoing huge change under the direction of Georges-Eugène Haussmann, commonly known as Baron Haussman. Napoleon III appointed him to carry out a massive urban renewal programme in Paris. More than 170 designs were submitted and Charles Garnier, just 35 years old, was the winner. Born in rue Mouffetard, Paris, in 1825 he was formally educated but unknown. The opera house opened in January 1875 and it was to make him internationally famous. In creating Palais Garnier, he crafted the architectural style of the Second Empire. When Empress Eugénie, perplexed by the building's lack of unity, asked him: “What is this style? This is no style, it is not Greek or Louis XVI”, Garnier replied “No, those styles are all outdated, this is Napoleon III”. It wasn’t an easy project. During the course of its construction delays were caused by the discovery of an underground lake, a war in 1870, the Siege of Paris and fall of the Second Empire. Napoleon III died two years before the work was finished. The Paris Opera company founded by Louis XIV in 1669 moved here, its 13th home, on 15 January 1875. It was an enormous success and became the showpiece of Haussman’s new Paris. To this day it is one of the largest theatres of the world with 1,979 seats.
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