Thursday, August 28, 2008

Garnier

This is post is special, as I have invited a special guest to share. Her name is "Ladyghost" and she hosts one of the most popular websites regarding the Phantom of the Opera on the Internet. She is also an expert regarding the Garnier - the Paris Opera House. Of course, we know it as the Opera Populaire in the Phantom of the Opera story, but it's the Garnier that holds the history and legend of Erik. Please welcome her as my guest, as she shares her knowledge regarding its history, its contents, and her many visits to places most people don't ever get to see! Welcome Ladyghost!

"The Opera Garnier…what a wonderful palace of Music and Elegante! I will explain something about its history, which is really interesting. Built between 1862-1875, its architect was Charles Garnier. He had been picked from among 171 contestants, and was relatively unknown although he had won the prize in 1848. He was only 35 when awarded with the design of the new Opera House. The origins of the idea for a new Opera House began when Napoleon III and his wife Eugenia suffered a terrorist attack on their way to the Opera Peletier. Napoleon decided to construct a new Opera with more security and secrets corridors where he and his wife could escape in case of another attack.

Garnier had numerous problems in order to create this building. When construction was finally started, it was quickly suspended after the discovery of an underground lake and spring. Although the problem was overcome, the lake persists and lies beneath the cellars of the building. Another obstacle was the Commune, considered as a Parisian civil war, which took place at 1870. After the Commune ended, the Opera did not receive any money to continue its creation, but when the only Opera building that existed in Paris caught fire, the new government had to subvention Garnier so he could continue with his work.

The Opera Garnier is a large building, with a total area of 11,000 square meters, 118,404 square feet and a vast stage with room for up to 450 artists. The auditorium itself comprises roughly half of the total space, most of the rest being used to house necessary logistical support so that the stage demands of any opera can be met and even surpassed. This can include live horses running on a rotating stage.

The words, numbers and history cannot be compared to the gorgeous sensation you feel when you see it in person. I have visited this building on several occasions (at least once per year) and every time the emotion is different. The huge façade…it has the splendor of a great gold Greek temple. I always contain my breath when I see it in front of me, and I am sure the same happens with persons who, like me, stare hypnotized and admire the shine of that building that involves all your view.

I like to sit in its staircases and contemplate the wonderful avenue filled with the lights of the night. At my side, I always find romantic couples, young musicians playing the g
uitar, children playing and laughing, tourists taking photos of every statue or column. I love being there, breathe deeply and feel that the world has stopped, that everything is fine in that moment. Then, even if I never notice it, I smile and close my eyes one second to realize that I am not dreaming - I am at the Phantom’s palace.

Its inside is like a fairytale, and it feels like you have entered in a new world full of new magic and sweet melancholy that absorbs all your soul. The orange lights, the huge mirrors, the perfect statues, the thousand of masks, everything composes a new universe where you wonder if it is real or not. I always feel I‘ve traveled through time, and I find myself at a masked ball of the XIX Century. If I close my eyes, I can even hear the music, the people laughter, the sound of the glasses, and the smell of the perfumes. The fir
st thing I see when I enter is the Grand Scalier. I feel like a true princess when I go up through it and I think “He was here, he came up through this same stairs.”

I have the strange feeling and sense of him everywhere I go and that is a wonderful feeling, indeed. In that place, all your doubts about him and his life dissipate. I have had the good luck to enter in several times and sit in Erik’s chair (first row, right side). It is a great position. You can see everything, but in darkness, people cannot see you. I love to touch the column as Leroux advised us to do. I’ve never found the mechanism which Erik used, but who knows, maybe one day someone can find it. I always try to imagine him there, seated in his favorite chair admiring Christine’s acting and singing and wondering why she cannot love him.

In the floor below it, you can find my favorite statue: La Pithie. It’s the statue of one of the “fortune-tellers,” which Apollo had in at his temple. She is really beautiful, b
ut strange and mysterious. No one seems to care about her, but she is my favorite corner at the building, together with the Grand Foyer. Garnier wanted to create something similar to the splendor of Versailles and he achieved it. In the Grand Foyer took place the Red Death scene, and it is easy to imagine him among the masked crowd in that golden corridor among plenty of muses and Greek gods.I can’t forget the wonderful chandelier or the Rotunda of Abonees. Below it, there is the first floor of the famous Opera cellars. I remember the first time I asked about them to one of the Opera staff. They told me they didn’t exist…another proof of the Opera strange secrecy about the Phantom’s subject. If you ask about him, no one will reply you. I achieved seeing the cellars years later thanks to a very special permission and since then I have been able to visit them twice. It is a wonderful place indeed. The shadows, the dark corridors, the sound of your footsteps, the stone columns, the echo of your own voice…It’s magical!

I always smile trying to see the Phantom’s shadow behind me, and I even glance behind because I have thought I had heard something. The most beautiful moment is when they showed me the lake, and I could see the little black fishes that live there! It seems the firemen give them food and clean the water once at year. I always stop in some points and touch the stone of the walls. I cannot help thinking, “I know you were here…maybe you touched this same stone I’m touching now.”

I had the chance to see the little dancers practicing with their teacher. They looked so glad! And what about the roof, with the great god Apollo? It’s easy imagine Christine and Raoul there…and did you know there are bees creating honey there too? You can buy a little bottle of it at the Opera merchandising. All this building has magic - a magic that involves you, submerges you in a new world full of romance, mystery, and masks."

Please feel free to visit her site: http://ladyghost.com

The Phantom's Student

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1 comment:

Ladyghost said...

Thank you so much, write for your blog has been a wonderful experience for me, thank you for count with me.
The Opera is a magcal place where I hope every Phantom phan can go someday.
Ladyghost.