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The Versailles of Opera Houses Opulent, ornamental, gleaming, glamorous and glitzy – wow factor galore is what the Opera is all about both inside and out. The moment you enter its doors to the grand, mirrored foyers, designed for the rich to see and be seen, there’s no doubting that this was meant to be a statement building. One of the most famous aspects of the building is the Grand Staircase built from white marble, with beautiful mellow lighting, sculptures and lots of gold – it’s utterly breath-taking and a theatrical setting. Though, if you visit in 2019 you might find the sight of two gold painted tractor tyres a bit bizarre. They’re part of a modern art installation by French artist Claude Lévêque to celebrate 350 years of the Paris Opera. Not all who see it are enthralled. It’s not the first time that Palais Garnier has caused controversy with its art choices. In 1964, the ceiling of the auditorium was updated with a painting by Marc Chagall. So great was the criticism at this choice that the original painting by Eugene Lenepveu was retained underneath it. Chagall's secret message in the ceiling The ceiling painted by Marc Chagall is now considered one of the wonders of Paris and countless thousands have stood looking in awe at the incredible colours and images. Recently a secret was revealed in the painting. The Google Art Project which designs the most powerful cameras in the world and photographs major artworks around the world, captured images of Chagall’s painting. They invited Chagall’s son to review the images and he told them that his father had told him that he had painted him as a baby, but he had never been able to see the image despite looking for many years.
Opera cake In 1955 great French pastry chef Cyriaque Gavillon worked at the legendary Dalloyau bakery in Paris, trading since 1682 and supplier to the court of Versailles. Gavillon, a genius with patisserie, wanted to make something that, in taking one bite, would give a taste of the whole cake. He worked on layers and tastes and came up with a wonderfully sophisticated cake. Made with layers of almond sponge cake (known as Biscuit Joconde - Mona Lisa - in French) soaked in coffee syrup, layered with ganache and coffee buttercream, and covered in a chocolate glaze. His wife told him it reminded her of the Paris Opera House, with its golden balconies and deep red velvet seating. The Opera cake was born. The Google team zoomed in on the photos and incredibly, after more than 50 years the image was revealed, a tiny baby, the son of Chagall (above left) an emotional moment for the grown-up son. Below it hangs an enormous, 340 light, 7- ton bronze and crystal chandelier designed by Garnier. In 1896 a counterweight, used to lift it for cleaning, fell into the audience and killed a theatre-goer. It was partly this which inspired the famous tale of the Phantom of the opera by Gaston Leroux in 1910. In fact go there today and you’ll see a door marked for the Phantom’s box! The stage is the largest in Europe and can hold up to 450 artists! When you visit there are often rehearsals ongoing so you can’t always get into the auditorium all the time but may have to wait to see it. In the Grand Foyer, lined with mirrors and lights is just like the Gallery of Mirrors at Versailles, and it’s easy to imagine it in the 19th century, thronging with jewelled, wide gowned ladies and top-hatted gents. It was as much then, if not more so, about showing off your wealth as it was about seeing an opera. You can take a tour (self-guided or guided) to enjoy it in all its splendour and of course you can see an opera there – but book in advance, tickets sell like hot cakes! How and where to get tickets from: There are a wide range of performances year round from ballet and opera, both classical to modern and a range of prices from 15 Euros to hundreds of Euros. Book online at: www.operadeparis.fr Guided tours take place in English each day at 11:00 and 14:30. Reserve online at Opéra Garnier or via tour companys like Cultival. Fans of Escape Game might like to know you can take part in an immersive journey in the footsteps of the Phantom of the Opera, animated by actors in period costume! Book online at OperadeParis
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