The opulent Opéra de Paris Garnier was designed by Charles Garnier for Emperor Napoleon III. It is the most important symbol of the nineteenth century Second Empire Baroque style.
Construction of the opera building started in 1862, but it wasn’t completed until 1875, partly because an underground lake was discovered during construction. The small lake still exists under the opera building. It was the hiding place of the «Phantom of the Opera» in Paul Leroux’s famous play.
Since the construction of the modern Opéra de Paris Bastille in 1989 on the Place de la Bastille, the majestic Opéra Garnier is now mainly used for ballet performances. At the same time, it was also officially renamed “Palais Opéra”.
Even though the building has a seating capacity of less than 2,200, the building is one of the largest theaters in the world by acreage. It is 172 meters long, 125 meters wide and reaches a height of 73.6 meters (564 x 410 x 241 ft.). The facade is decorated with rose marble columns, friezes, sculpture groups and two large gilded statues.
The interior of the Opéra Garnier building is even more impressive than its exterior. The marble Grand Staircase has a height of 30 meters or 98 feet! They were the inspiration for the marble staircase in New York’s Grand Central Terminal. The 54-meter-long Grand Foyer features a mosaic covered ceiling and numerous chandeliers. It is so luxurious that it can be compared with the corridors in the Palace of Versailles.
Behind the Grand Foyer and below the green copper dome is the lavishly decorated auditorium with red velvet, plaster cherubs and gold leaf. The auditorium’s magnificent chandelier weighs a massive six tonnes. Its oval-shaped ceiling was painted in 1964 by Marc Chagall. The stage behind the auditorium is 60 meters high (197 ft.) and has room for up to 450 actors.