Tuesday, May 12, 2009
jour no. 13 - le palais garnier
Tonight (Tuesday), I went to the Palais Garnier – the opera house in the center of town – to see the Paris Opera Ballet perform Onegin. It was quite an entertaining evening: I had a great seat (spoiled! won't sit in the rafters!), Aurelie Dupont and Nicolas La Riche were lovely, the last 15 seconds of the ballet more than redeemed some of the goofily awkward choreography throughout, and WOW what a crazy-looking theater! It's kind of a hot mess – gilt up the wazoo, and a million different styles and periods and knockoffs, all jumbled together in a way that, somehow, just works.
The theater was begun in the mid 1800s, during Haussmann's wholesale overhaul of the city. In "Seven Ages of Paris," Alastair Horne writes, "Perhaps the age is best epitomized by Charles Garnier's new Opéra, which in its florid magnificence [exactly!!] symbolized the wealth of the day, its affection for the new rococo, with just a touch of vulgarity."
I'd say maybe more than just a touch, but oddly, even as you're cracking up at the Chagall ceiling surrounded by gold crowns and wreaths and coats of arms or whatever, you're still just thrilled – absolutely thrilled – to be sitting in such an over-the-top place. You definitely feel that you're at an event, that this is not just any old night on the town.
Especially, I might add, as you enjoy a coupe de champagne on the terrace at intermish, marvelling that at 9pm, it's still daylight.