A visit to the magnificent Opera Granier, and hearing a concert at the stunning Paris philharmonic hall, all on the same day, was an amazing experience.
On the many previous occasions in Paris, we had never visited the opera building, although we often stayed at the Intercontinental Le Grand Hotel situated right behind the opera.
(an historical landmark structure from 1862 Inaugurated under Napoleon III and decorated in a Second Empire style)
Somehow the Opera didn't offer performances of interest, or was closed for the season, and often there were other attractions capturing our time and imagination, during our much shorter previous visits.
So finally, this morning we joined a small group of other English speakers, for a 90 minutes tour, with an excellent expert guide, who met the group inside the lower entrance of this grand building, and which for sure, I highly recommend.
Opera - House Palace Granier -monument historique since 1923
Palais Garnier, the imposing home of the Paris Opera and Ballet,
was the primary theater until when a new opera house, the Opéra Bastille opened in 1989. Opera Granier was built in the heart of Hausmannian Paris, from 1861 at the bequest of Emperor Napoleon III after the establishment of the Second Empire in 1852, and inaugurated under the third republic in 1875.
There was an attempted assassination (on 14 January 1858) of Emperor Napoleon III at the entrance to the older and smaller Opera structure, Salle Le Peletier - the home of the Paris Opera from (1821 until the building was destroyed by fire in 1873) which raised the need for a separate, more secure entrance for the head of state.
As a result, Napoleon III, who escaped the attack, decided it was time for Paris to have an Opera House worthy of the Empire’s grandeur, and much better connected to the imperial palace (the Louvre and Tuileries complex). This concern and the inadequate facilities gave added urgency to the need to replace the small venue of Rue Le Peletier, and to the building of a new state-funded opera house, which was undertaken by Graneir, after him winning in 1860 architectural design competition.
It soon became known as the Palais Granier, "in acknowledgment of its extraordinary opulence" . The architect ((1825-1898) Charles Grarnier's plans and designs, are representative of the Napoleon III style. That style is highly eclectic, and includes elements from the Baroque, the classicism of Palladio, and Renaissance architecture blended together. It is combined with axial symmetry and modern techniques and materials, including the use of an pioneering iron framework. The facade and the interior assures no space without decoration.
Use of variety of colors and materials for theatrical effect, multicolored marble and stone, porphyry, and gilded bronze, gold leaf, columns, multicolored, lavish statuary, many of which portray deities of Greek mythology., cherubim and nymphs.
The building's large ceremonial marbled staircase which divides into two divergent flights of stairs, lead to the opulent Grand Foyer -
It was designed to act as a drawing room for Paris society -
to see and be seen, and once allowed access only to men.
The opera goers had to be properly dressed for the occasion, using the glorious opera outing to flash out their riches and social status.
That explains all the jewelry and department store which popped up around the Opera building, and which intended to attract those who at the time could afford consuming pricey goods.
The auditorium itself, is relatively small in comparison to the huge public spaces designed for social interactions. It has a traditional Italian horseshoe vertical shape (for best acoustic purposes) and can seat only 1,979, some with partial view or no view at all.
The stage is the largest in Europe and can accommodate as many as 450 artists.
We didn't have access to the stage this morning, because Crystal Pite, - Canadian choreographer and dancer was practicing at the Opera Garnier for this Saturday's world premiere of Body and Soul, -her new production for the French company. After Saturday the performance will move to the modern Opera Bastille, which can sit
2,723 people. That is the case with many performances' openings which start at Granier and move to the larger unaccommodating Bastille
The Palais Granier also houses the Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra de Paris
The Opera will stamp your tour tickets which allows an access back into the Opera house, during tour visits time, good for one year.
Iconic Ballet Dancer Nureyev costume on display at the Opera
That dry and partly cloudy late afternoon we returned to Parc Vallett the 19th district.
David couldn't pass on the opportunity of missing it's sites, and in particular to sample this very good "au boeuf couronne" restaurant, which later we we were told, has a sister restaurant : "Chez Andre" - Bistro Traditional at rue Marbeuf in the champs Elise area.
Before dinning, and now me leading in the expert guiding role, we headed back to the charming Park Villatte complex, admiring the cultural complex, its amazing structures and open green spaces.
Continuing along the de l'Ourcq canal, at some point we turned toward the second public "Parc des Buttes Chaumont "
At times it felt like walking through East Oakland's or Harlem's streets , as the low class housing, and the neighborhood's population had changed to predominantly black, and so was the same color, only dress-wise, when we encountered, on the way to the park, (between Rue Petit and Rue Manin) Rachamim -a Lububitch Chabadnic covered by black coat, hat and beard.
Very friendly, and most engaging in fluent Hebrew, he informed us of the 20,000 Jewish community count, in the district , most religiously observant, and mainly being concentrated, along these 2 streets' strips, bordering the park. These streets are freckled with many Glat Kosher dinning establishments, food stores, and other commercial Jewish enterprises.
Rachamim, our incidental guide, was proud to point out to an huge modern building - an all Girl Jewish School, Lucien de Hirsh, Beth Haya Mouchka - 49-51 Rue Petit. which accommodes 2500. It was built with 15 million donation contributions, and facilitates also high school studies and Bacloria - Matriculation.
We were amazed to learn of the extant of this flourishing and striving community of 3 synagogues and other Jewish learning facilities.
With the arrival of Sephardi Jews during the 1960s, Jewish communities, after its Holocaust liquidation, were re-built up again, in several districts of the city, in particular the 19th district.
For the past about 35+ years this district has been the place of Jewish orthodoxy, Ashkenazim and Sephardi Jews, mixed , thus creating a community of reconfiguration, rich both in terms of diversity and cohesion, creating the largest number of Jewish schools and synagogues.
Chabad Centers/synagogues only in Paris
A Kosher Patisserie store
A night at the Paris Philharmonic
Just before dining we tried our luck to get tickets, for the night's concert at the Paris Philharmonic, and indeed fate was on our side.
The interiors black and white is as stunning as the outdoors of the building.. The Orchestra de Paris was conducted by:
Christop von dohnananyi - This visiting German conductor of Hungarian ancestry born in Berlin in 1929, was amazing.
Also his Lutheran family and life story is unusual. His father, uncle and other family members participated in the German Resistance movement against Nazism, and were arrested and detained in several Nazi concentration camps before being executed in 1945, when Christoph was 15 years old
After a long career in the opera and orchestra houses in Frankfurt, Lubek, Cologne, hamburg , Cleveland, London, Boston, Chicago LA as well as in many festivals.
The evening concert's Program included:
Hyden symphony no 12 (wonderful)
Gyorgy Ligeti double concerto (which I didn't like)
Brahmans symphony no 3 (beautiful one)
To be continued...