Thursday, July 5, 2012

Oui Oui Madame!

An American in Paris...that's what I am, only I'm here with my DH and not Gene Kelly.  And my DH does not dance...if you were wondering why has been closed for shipping, well this is the reason!

To get the lay of the land our first stop was the Basilica Sacre'-Coeur.  We climbed to the very top and were rewarded with this lovely view of Paris and the of course the Eiffel Tower.

This basilica is in the the Montmartre section of Paris where the Moulin Rouge is located and Toulouse Lautrec did all his dramatic, absinthe soaked paintings.

Right around the corner from where we're staying, in the Invalides or Eiffel Tower neighborhood, is the Musee Rodin.

Musee Rodin or the Hotel Biron
Auguste Rodin actually lived and worked on these premises.  He eventually donated all his art to France with the stipulation they pay his expenses and create a museum with his work when he passed away, one that will be open to the general public.  Unlike lots of his contemporaries Rodin died rich and famous.

The huge garden was my favorite part of the museum and had many of his beautiful works, manicured lawns and fountains.  Though in Rodin's time the garden was left wild, I would have liked to have seen that actually.
The famous Gates of Hell.
And of course The Thinker.

So far my absolute favorite thing I've seen is the Opera Garnier.  Construction begun in 1860 by the little known architect Charles Garnier under the direction of the ruler of France Napoleon.  They had a perfectly acceptable opera house already but it wasn't grand enough for Napoleon.  But well into the construction the French Revolution occurred and Napoleon never got to set foot inside it.

The sweeping marble staircase is made up of 6 different varieties of marble from all across Europe.

Napolean was likened to Apollo the God of the Sun and this motif dominates  the art work.  This is the top of the staircase.  The idea of attending an Opera was to "see and be seen" not to enjoy the show and the entire layout is designed to distinguish one class of patron from the other, this view is of the "wooden" balconies overlooking the staircase or where the cheap seats would be located.

After seeing this Opera, and I've been to Versailles before, its not hard to understand why there was a French Revolution.

Garnier brought in artisans from all across Europe.  At the time the only artisans who knew 
mosaic work where from Italy.  This is Mercury and he's in the foyer at the top of the staircase right before you enter the Salon du Glacier.  

My photo of this ceiling, also on the way into the Salon du Glacier, does not do this mural justice, its an amazing sun with dragons in the center.

And this is the ceiling of the Salon du Glacier.  Its reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.  It was Garnier's attempt to also out do Versailles as well as the existing Opera in Paris.

Next we went into the auditorium, another work of art!

This is the Empresses' box, but she never got to use it.  The Emperor's box was directly across from it.  Not really the best seats in the house to see the performance, but the best seats in the house to be seen. 

And this is one of the works of art I loved the most.  In 1964 Mark Chagall was commissioned to redo the auditorium ceiling.  The Republic's Director of Social something or other at the time wanted to shake things up and get people interested in the Opera once again.  Chagall's modern design was considered shocking and to be honest it really doesn't match the classical decor!  The original work is preserved underneath and of course it had the Apollo Sun God theme.  Despite not quite fitting in Chagall did depict major operas in each panel.

Despite Napoleon being over thrown and exiled Garnier did finish his masterpiece after 15 years of construction.  But it was under much duress having to get new patrons to pay for the construction.  It cost a small fortune and our guide said it would have been in the millions at that time, but no one has ever really been able to determine the cost.  Anyway, on opening night Garneir was invited to attend the Opera, but he had to pay for his own ticket!

And this is the stage, I was lucky enough to see them setting up scenery.  Underneath the stage is a huge reservoir that is the supposed canals that the Phantom of the Opera uses to escape.  The Opera is built on a swampy area that had to be drained prior to construction and this reservoir is all that is left.  Our tour guide assured us that there are not sewers or canals leading in or out of the Opera and the Phantom is just a myth.  

I've been busy during this trip.  I've also seen the Musee Cognacq Jay, the Pantheon where Voltaire is buried across from Rousseau, the Musee De L'Orangerie where Monet's Water Lillies are presented in the infinity shaped room, the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry collection at the Musee Cluny, Venus de Milo at the Louvre, the incredible collection of Impressionist work at the Musee O'rsay and my favorite thus far the Musee Marmottan Monet that houses the most Monet work I've ever seen in one place.  

I'm sure I'm forgetting something and I'll try to blog more later!

1 comment:

Katie K said...

How wonderful for you! I hope you get to Versailles and see the gardens there as well. Two places to eat: the Café Philosophe in the Mariais, and the Petit Pontoise on the Left Bank.