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January 5, 1875: The inauguration of the Garnier Opera

Gérald Ghislain

Posted on January 03 2019

January 5, 1874: The inauguration of the Garnier Opera - Histoires de Parfums

An explosive beginning

On the evening of January 14, 1858, on Le Peletier road, three Italian arnachists await the imperial horse-drawn carriage of Napoléon III and his wife, empress Eugénie de Montijo. Upon his arrival, anarchists aim three bombs to the convoy. The attack leaves eight wounded and over a hundred injured, while the imperial couple make it out without a scratch. The following morning, the emperor orders the construction of a new opera near the Louvre, where they live, on a more popular street to make it difficult to plan future attacks.

 

A competition that impassions

On December 29, 1860, an international competition is set up to elect an architect to design the future opera. The competition to build the "Imperial Academy of Music and Danse" is relayed by the press, and engenders a passion amongst the French people. In total, 171 project designs are submitted to the jury. While the most renown architects of the era submit their propositions, the quasi unknown, Charles Garnier, 35 years old, takes home the victory.

 

A construction in tribute of the events 

The first stone of the opera is set in 1862. Large tarps hide the building to ensure the element of surprise at the inauguration. The opera's construction becomes an integral part of the prefect Haussmann's transformation of Paris. Hussmann, however, has a tendency to frequently change his mind regarding regulations, and changes the required height of buildings on the street which goes from the opera and the Louvre, forcing Charles Garnier heighten part of his building to conserve a prestigious character.

In 1870, construction is halted due to France's loss to the Prussians. The project is put on pause for three years, but on the nights of October 28- 29 1873, the Le Peletier opera is destroyed by a fire. Paris is now without an opera house..

The government of the III Republic thus decides to relaunch the project. Charles Garnier, however, faces many issues as numerous artisans who once worked on the construction, have left, and could not be replaced. Multiple projects such as the smoking room Gallery will never be completed.

 

 

An inauguration with great fanfare, and little to show

Napoleon III, deceased in 1873, will never see the opera he ordered to have built. It's the president of the French republic Mac Mahon that inaugurates the building on January 5, 1875 in the presence of the Spanish royal family along with guests from all four corners of the world. Many famous operas are played, and the acoustic quality of the room enchants all the spectators.

The only drawback of the ceremony is that Charles Garnier is invited, but has to pay for a ticket! His previous amical relationship with the old imperial regime is not forgiven. This news will go on to be mocked by the French press the following day.

Today, the Garnier opera, or Garnier Palace, is viewed as a successful representation of "Napoleon III" style. To prove this, we can go back to the words of empress Eugénie de Montijo when a journalist asked her about her thoughts on the building during the inaugruation, to which she responded, "It's very Napoleon III!"

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