1902 Encyclopedia > Paris > Theatres

(Part 7)


Of the many buildings in paris devoted to theatrical entertainments there is only one, at once the largest and the most beautiful, which is of real architectural importance-the Grand Opera, or national academy of music and dancing. The opera house, which covers 2 _ acres, is the finest theatre in the world. The process of erection, directed by Charles Garnier, lasted from 1861 to 1875, required 673,295 days’ work, and cost 1,440,000 pounds. The front is decorated on the ground story by allegorical groups (music by Guillaume; lyrical poetry by Jouffroy; lyrical drama by Perraud; and dancing by Carpeaux) and allegorical statues. In the first story a row of coupled Corinthian columns (each consisting of a single block) forms an open gallery, above which are seven busts of famous musicians, Mozart, Beethoven, &c. Above the architrave of the front appears the dome which covers the auditorium, and behind that rises the vast pediment above the stage decorated at the corners with enormous groups. On the summit of the pediment an Apollo, raising aloft his lyre, is seen against the sky and forms the culminating point of the whole edifice. The sides are not so richly decorated as the front, but each has in the center an elegant cylindrical pavilion with a carriage entrance. Behind are the buildings occupied by the managers and staff. The interior is decorated throughout in the most gorgeous manner with massive gilding, flamboyant scroll-work, statues, paintings, &c. The grand vestibule with statues of Lully, Rameau, Gluck, and Handel, the grand starcase (an indubitable masterpiece), the avant-foyer or corridor leading to the foyer, and the foyer or crush-room itself are especially worthy of mention. This last, which is 197 feet long, 43, broad and 59 high, has its ceiling brilliantly painted by Baudry, whose work, however, can hardly be appreciated properly from the excess of light. The auditorium is seated for 2156; its ceiling is painted by Lenepven. Behind the stage is the foyer de la danse or green-room for the ballet, adorned with large allegorical panels and portraits of the most eminent danseuses.

The comic opera has a theatre to itself, L’Opera Comique; and operattas are played at La Renaissance, Les Bouffes, Les Folies Dramatiques, and Dejazet. The Theatre Francais and the Odeon represents the works of the classical dramatists, as well as modern pieces tragic or comic. Comedy and vaudevilles are played at the Gymnase and the Vaudeville; and the Palais Royal, the Varietes, and the Nouveautes devote themselves especially to farce. Pieces of the popular class, fairy scenes and spectacular displays, are the main attraction of the Chatelet, the Gaeite, the Porte St Martin, and the Ambigu. The Chateau d’Eau now gives popular operatic performances. Equestrian entertainments are supplied by the hippodrome and three circuses. The café concerts- which during the summer season abound in the Champs Elysess- remove in winter to the Boulevard de Strasbourg and he Montmartre and Poissonniere fauborugh, where there are also some permanent establishments of the kind. Several companies give concerts of classical music on stated days in the winter season; the finest are those of the Conservatoire and the Chateau d’Eau, Chatelet, and Cirque theatres.

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