It became one of those things I had to see to see for myself. For all kinds of reasons, it wasn’t meant to be until my trip to Paris in April. The first time I visited, the entire building was being refurbished and I couldn’t get it to the auditorium. The second time I visited, it was in the middle of the night and it wasn’t open. The third time I visited, the auditorium was closed for rehearsal. The fourth, and most recent, time I visited: success. I hedged my bets that, even in Paris, the Opéra would not likely be rehearsing at 10h on a Saturday, and my gamble paid off.
Go early and be patient. The weather was nice, so a small crowd formed waiting for the Palais to open. Be prepared to queue again inside to have your bag searched, then queue again to pay €9 to be overwhelmed by opulence. Walking through the corridor, I turned the corner and saw this:
When I see such opulence, my default reaction is: “I could never afford this,” like there was a realistic possibility I could buy the building. Head up the marble grand escalier slowly:
Into the auditorium:
And take in the sumptuous red velvet seating and golden interior.
Then, look up. Marc Chagall painted this ceiling mural in the 1960s, depicting scenes around Paris, performances within the Opéra, and the odd cello-playing animal.
I could have very easily looked at this all day. The amount of detail – on a ceiling, no less – is more than enough to keep me occupied for hours.
After the main performance hall, there is plenty to see at the Opéra. Head toward the museum to see a collection of paintings depicting performances and individual performers. My favourite part of the museum was the collection of miniature set designs from early productions. It’s a short visit, definitely enough time to fit it in before dashing off to your next Paris destination. Next mission: be in town when there’s actually a performance!