This is the first post of a bunch I’ll make to finish off my public impressions of our trip. yes, we’re at home but that’s no reason for you to be deprived of the benefits of my mind. In Paris, it was day eight of our holiday and Sunday, the 5th of April.
We took ourselves, after a late breakfast, to the Opera so that Kathi could geek all over the place where she wants to work. The sandstone monument to the Arts is very grand and every bit as showy and grandoise as Versailles but on a much smaller scale. Just looking at the place makes you think that the French truly appreciate the arts and artistic endeavours until you discover that Charles Garnier won the design competition in 1853 because he was the only entrant who realised that the real reason people go to the Opera is to see what the rest of society is wearing. It was only in the 1930s that the management of the place decided that it may be a good idea to turn down the lights in the auditorium while a performance was on. The placement of the lighting and the over-abundant use of mirrors makes this place a voyeur’s dream.
When you look closer, however, it turns out to be nothing more than show – literally smoke and mirrors. The construction and decorating of the Opera was started during the Empire of Napoleon III and was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 before resuming under the Third Republic. You can see this reflected in the quality of the decorations which change abruptly from real gold leaf to dim lighting on brown and gold paint. The whole section of the Opera dedicated to the Emperor’s private entrance (built to avoid a repeat of the earlier assassination attempt) has never been finished.
I think it was when the tour guide – a cute-as-a-button french woman with a gorgeous accent – informed us that there was no phantom (Gaston Leroux made it up?!?!) and that the lake under the theatre was actually a three-metre wide pit to foil rising damp that the whole illusion fell apart for me. Nonetheless, Kathi was in her element. Adding to the attraction for her was a vast display of costumes and costume making. She wandered from display case to display case drooling over the contents while I followed dutifully behind with a mop and bucket and a “slippery when wet” sign.
That actually turned out to be all we did that day. Sunday is a day of rest after all and we took full advantage of the fact before ordering takeaway pizza for dinner.