Construction and design
The Opera-House was designed and built in 1878 by the famous architect Charles Garnier (1825–1898).
Construction work began in June, 1878, and advanced at a record rate as only 8 months and 16 days separated the laying of the first foundation stones and the application of the sstucco and paintings on the vaulted ceiling. This record time was made possible thanks to night lighting and workers rotating on day and night shifts.
The inauguration was held on January 25th, 1879.
The stage formed a small music room decorated with five canvases, only one of which has survived : “L’Allégorie de la Danse” (artist unknown), paint with paste on canvas, 178 x 675 cm. It now hangs on the wall of one of the private salons of the Salle des Palmiers at the Sporting Monte-Carlo.
The other canvases that adorned the stage were “La Musique” by Monginot, “La Poésie” by M. Dusautoy, “Le Chant” by M. Barrias and “La Comédie” by M. Motte.
Restoration by Henri Schmit
In 1897, it was decided to carry out a lot of alterations. The modifications were entrusted to the architect Henri Schmit. Charles Garnier, suffering from illness, wrote to the Management to indicate his displeasure.
The room’s dimensions make it an almost perfect square : 20 m long by 21 m wide. The frame of the stage measured 10.75 x 6.50 m, the stage itself 12 x 12 m with 2 m of wings all around it. The Opera seated 525 spectators.
The two boxes on either side of the stage were essentially ornamental, just like the 12 bull’s-eye windows supposed to light the vaulted ceiling, which is crowned by allegorical heads contributed by the sculptor Félix Chabaud.
In the four corners of the ceiling, statues of well-known figures by Jules Thomas eternally wave their golden palms to the glory of the Sovereign Prince. The arch of the stage is crowned by two more figures produced by Jean Gautherin.
The opera in all its old-world splendour
The Salle Garnier has been totally restored while preserving its classical spirit. This undertaking made it possible to rediscover the original decor and its huge chandelier. Entrusted to Mr Alain-Charles Perrot, head architect of France’s Historic Monuments, the restoration work began on September Ist, 2003, and was completed on September 9th, 2005.
While it had taken Charles Garnier only 8 months to build the concert hall, 2 whole years proved necessary to restore its former sumptuousness – still with the same passion for excellence.