I visited France for a week this summer, and I promised some pictures. It was a beautiful trip. I traveled alone, using Paris as my base to explore Versaille, the seat of the Sun King, Giverny, the home of Monet, and Marseille, the beautiful coast. I would have liked to leave Marseille early to visit Provence on the way – don’t we all dream of those lavender fields? – but it was not to be. In fact, my circumstances in Marseille became unexpectedly dark – a story I will tell another time.
For now, some light, from the City of Light, La Ville-Lumière. I first visited the Palais Garnier, the first French Opera house that now houses ballet. Natalie Portman’s husband Benjamin Millepied leads the company there today. It was breath-taking inside. Glass, light, crystal, chandeliers.
And a Muse. Of course I would show you her.
This is the grand entranceway for season ticket holders. As I walked in this building, I realized I had written about it without ever being there. The Palais Garnier is exactly as I pictured the Theatre of Tragedy in my world of Nyarteme.
Except my version had more snakes.
The Opera house was where people socialized and held court. Women would sit in their boxes, holding meetings. The later you arrived, the better, because it meant you were busy and therefore important. The shows were not spectacular or even relevant, because no one was really listening; it was like a modern cocktail party or an outdoor movie, but with wigs instead of canapes and corsets instead of flipflops.
There is so much detail on every surface that you could wander the Opera for a year and still find little vignettes to admire. Carved dragons, gods behaving badly, a placard for a phantom. Every facade is meant for consumption.
I loved the Room of the Sun and the Room of the Moon. Though I am usually partial to the moon, the Sun was just a little more lovely in the Palais. Mirrors, mirrors, always mirrors. See and be seen. Paris itself is a city of eyes.
You may have heard of a book or a show called Phantom of the Opera. This is the theatre from which it is based, and here is the Phantom’s box. Leroux’s novel was inspired by a real incident in this very building when a counterweight for the great chandelier fell from the ceiling into the crowd, maiming a woman. This beautiful ceiling is a new addition, meant to bring some modern color into this old institution. I sat there for awhile in a little red chair, staring at an empty stage as tourists streamed by, seeing a show in my own mind – one with Muses and mirrored masks, with fire and pythons, with memory and magic art.