A Photograph, A Story: "Opéra de Paris en 1916"

Opera of Paris in 1916
"Opera de Paris: street scene crowded with cars, horses and cars, trams and pedestrians in 1916." Vintage Collection

Photography Opéra de Paris en 1916 - State Library of Victoria

This photograph represents the Paris Opera, now called the Opéra Garnier.

A building built following an attack against Napoleon III.

    The Opéra de Paris, now called Opéra Garnier or Palais Garnier, owes its name to architect Charles Garnier. The building was built by order of Napoleon III, following an attack by Italian anarchists occurred January 14, 1858 rue Le Peletier where was then the reference Opera House in Paris. The imperial couple was miraculously spared, but eight people lost their lives that day. The day after the tragedy, Napoleon III ordered the construction of a new place of appearance of Parisian high society, in a large street less conducive to attacks, currently located in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. The project was then declared of public utility by an imperial decree on September 29, 1860.

During the Franco-German War of 1870, the construction was stopped, leaving the building unfinished. It was only at the beginning of the third republic, after a fire at the opera house Le Peletier in 1873, that the construction was resumed. The building was inaugurated on January 5, 1875 by President Mac Mahon. The Opera House is also considered a monument particularly representative of the eclectic architecture and the historicist style of the second half of the 19th century.

The adventures of construction on the initiative of the legend of the ghost of the Opera.

   During the excavations and excavations, intended for the realization of the massifs of foundations, the works were abruptly interrupted because of the level of the water table. To be able to build, the workers had to set up steam pumps running night and day for seven months to dry the wells of the neighborhoods around. A concrete casing filled with water was created, allowing the infrastructure to withstand the pressure of seepage water and better distribute the loads of a part of the basement buildings. Today, it serves as a reservoir for firefighters in the event of a disaster.

  It was this event that gave birth to the legend of an underground lake fed by a watercourse bearing the name "Grande-Batelière". This legend was also exploited and maintained by the famous novelist Gaston Leroux with "The Phantom of the Opera". The novel tells the story of Ernest, a young pianist who falls head over heels in love with a conservatory dancer with whom he plans to get married. He decides to compose a music for her wedding day. Meanwhile, the Opera catches fire and the beautiful dies. Ernest then took refuge in the basement to finish his composition and die alone. In 1907, workers who were digging the basement have found a corpse, so it is assumed that it is that of the ghost. However, a second legend says that Ernest is still alive, and feeds on fish that he finds in the reservoir built in 1863.


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