Opera is not only “the Temple of
pleasure “, it is also, and above all, the Temple of art and of a particular art which speaks to the eyes, to the ears, to the heart and to the passions; that is to say, which brings into play all the richness of human organization. This exuberance of sensations must occur in a favorable environment and this abundance of impressions which springs from lyrical drama must be further supplemented by the impression of abundance which springs from architecture. ”

An architectural equivalent of lyrical art



ter must prepare, accompany, complete their pleasure. The building must be in unison; it must constitute an equivalent, in the order of architecture, of what lyrical art is in that of the spectacle.
In fact, this dreamlike universe that the spectator is looking for is as much in the Palais Garnier itself as in the rite it shelters. The Palais Garnier is a stone opera, a waking dream in architecture, just like opera (lyrical art) is a waking dream in music. This monument is the answer to a question posed to any civilization: how to make that man from time to time has the illusion that his dreams are fulfilled, so that he can bear the rest of the time that they are not. ? Lyrical art of all time has brought the most ambitious spectacle ever imagined by men – before cinema, at least – and Charles Garnier has added a monument that remains the most factually and the most fascinating theater of opera never built.
It started on January 5, 1875. Without discussion, that evening, the new building took center stage. Reading the press of the time, the gala was above all the triumph of the monument and its architect, Charles Garnier

In Le Nouvel Opéra de Paris, published in 1878, just three years after the monument was inaugurated, Charles Garnier tells, explains and comments at length. Under his pen, sometimes humorous, sometimes snowman, are linked small and big stories of thirteen years of work, technical explanations and reflections on his profession. He says what he would have liked to do and what he could have done. In one sentence, he expresses, always simply, without emphasis or pedantry, the guiding idea of ​​his work: opera is a rich art – a synthesis of the arts – and the place in which men come to taste


between the world of the stage and that of the spectators; with him, the stage and the room tend to meet, to merge – in the unreal, of course. Our architect realized this – without knowing it? – Wagner’s guiding idea when he was writing Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft (The Work of Art of the Future), published in 1849: for the young composer, the theater of the future “was to carry out even in his architecture the unity of all, artists and spectators, and abolish the differences between stage and hall, between drama and life; everything had to be one, like the total work of art “. Meanwhile, as on many points, Wagner had evolved, reducing his ambitions. But the young Wagner’s dream, Charles Garnier found it by simply meditating on the nature of the opera; he realized it by building a spectacle palace just like it.

An artistic synthesis through architecture

To build this temple capable of both welcoming and equaling Art par excellence, this temple of total art which
talking to the eyes, the ears, the heart and the passions, Charles Garnier understood that he must use the same weapons. To build his stone opera house, he too had to realize the sacred union of all the arts and techniques which contributed to the construction and ornamentation of a monument. Just as lyrical art is a “common work of art – in the Wagnerian sense – united by poetry, music, dance and painting under the aegis of music, so the Palais Garnier should have been a common work of these arts today qualified as plastics under the aegis of architecture.
How was this artistic synthesis operated by Charles Garnier? Even if he showed little taste for great theoretical developments, he laid down the principles in Through the Arts, published in 1869 when the construction of the New Opera was in full swing: “Architecture (…) is the very essence of the abode of men. In one line, everything is said. Essence is what makes a thing what it is; the rest – the other arts in particular – remain second

artistic “:” Painters and sculptors must first of all resolve to make a sacrifice; (…) they must compose and perform their works for the space assigned to them; [. . . ] I mean that the artists must understand well the effect that their work must produce, the mission that has fallen to them and the general harmony of the monument that they have to decorate. “The place assigned to each work, its own mission, is a matter for the architect. He alone has the superior vision of the whole. The fundamental principle which must guide painters and sculptors is harmony, that is to say the integration of their creations in the monument. As poetry or dance unite with music in the “common art work of the opera, the same painting, sculpture and – a fortiori – decorative or technical arts must be inserted in the monument and blend in him, with the right tact.
Because to succeed in the “common art work of the plastic arts, the brotherly arts of architecture are led to give up, for its own benefit, a fair share of freedom:“ It is necessary, in a word, that they s ‘identify with the architecture of which they will be part, because their work, to be perfectly decorative, must have collective virtues. ”
Painters and sculptors associated with the great work will therefore, if they do not become architects themselves, be led in part by the architect, amicably of course, in order to unite as in a single thought the arts which tended to express individually.
Within this framework, the painter or the sculptor is free: “He will put in the execution of his program all the talent he has, and this talent will not be hindered in any way. “Liberty, but supervised liberty, accompanied by a ban on leaving the territory, therefore; a relative freedom, like any freedom here below, which rather makes one think of a style constraint whose obstacle bounces creativity. “A very simple thing,” said Garnier. Simple and powerful, in fact, like the synthesis which organizes all the elements according to a higher order and shapes each of them so that it “disappears”, is integrated into the harmony of the total work of art ” At the risk of going unnoticed, because both incorporated into the monument that “we hardly look at it more than a large ornament, which honestly fulfills its purpose. . . At Charles Garnier’s Opera House, it is the forest that hides the trees.


This preeminence of architecture allows Garnier to impose on painting and sculpture the rules to be observed in their interventions inside.
a building – what he calls “the laws of decoration

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