L’Opéra Garnier… I always dreamed to one day step onto the stage at the famous Parisian theater where so many elegant point shoes have brushed the floor in fervent fouettés… and I did. I did, and I did a pirouette on that most illustrious stage where just minutes before the dancers of the Paris Opera ballet company had been gracefully floating. I did a pirouette… aaaaand almost fell over. I almost fell over because the floor is slanted 5% and if you are not used to it, it can be quite destabilizing. This is where the terms “upstage” and “downstage” come from.
After catching my fall, I looked up to see Brigitte Lefèvre, company director, giving post-performance notes to dancer Alessio Carbone. She raised an eyebrow and said with a kind chuckle in her voice “Si vous allez commencer à faire ça, il faut venir en cours demain!”… I was literally trembling with awe and excitement. She was speaking to me! And (jokingly, but still) inviting me to ballet class!
I was lucky enough to be given a private tour of the entire, I mean ENTIRE, opera house, after the Tuesday night performance of Hommage à Jerome Robbins this past May 4th 2010. From rafters to the belly, I will share some of what I saw with you dear readers…
A lofty rehearsal room under the dome of the Opera house. I couldn’t resist a pose.
A tutu we found lying around in the rehearsal room under the dome. Used for practice, it was marked “Loulou” on the inside.
One of the rehearsal rooms. The rehearsal room floors are also slanted so that the dancers learn how to dance on it right away.
Made out of a sort of plaster, the entire audience seating area is decorated with this material that is easy to cast into molds, paint, repair and doesn’t weigh the theater down. Plus the effect is still stunning, and no one is the wiser! (until now)
A small section of the large room where the extras called “figurants” en français, prepare.
These large wheels are below the stage and turn the complex pulley systems that lower and raise the enormous sets that decorate the stage. When they were in use they were operated by dozens of strong men. They are now classified historically.
Part of an apparatus used to light the stage that is old-school electricity! The theater was built at the dawn of the electric era.
Here is a water pumping system that can pump water from the “lake” that is under the theater, in case of fire. Yes there is water under there because the theater was built upon a plot that has a high water level.
On one of the foundation levels, where the carriages and horses of the spectators were kept during the performances. This beautiful old stone used to create such a sturdy and beautiful edifice.