Friday, March 29, 2013

Marc Chagall: The Reason To Visit The Paris Opera

Opera National de Paris

In my opinion there is one very compelling reason to visit the Paris Opera if ever in this city. And it's not the building itself, as I have to agree with Max's assessment when walking through the halls up the grand stairs to the theater. "This is so overdone." 

It's the ceiling, painted by Marc Chagall.

There is simply no way a photo can convey the experience of encountering this expansive artwork after making one's way through the ornate lobby into the heavily appointed theater. The ceiling rises like a breath of fresh air, light with brilliant color and captivating scenes celebrating the ballet, musicians and its audience.

Chagall was commissioned to paint the ceiling in 1963, a choice that caused controversy centering around the fact he was a Russian Jew rather than a french born artist, with others objecting to the ceiling of the historic building being painted by a modern artist. It took him just a year to complete the work.

It was presented to the public on September 23, 1964. Once the orchestra played the finale of a Mozart symphony, Chagall's favorite composer, the chandelier was lit up bringing the painting to life to great acclaim, essentially silencing the critics. 

During other visits this site the curtain has been drawn at the stage. What a fabulous treat to see work for a production in progress while stopping by this time! It was amazing to see how far the stage extended back into the recesses of the building...

... with lighting being tested...

... and elements of the stage moved around in preparation for a performance.

The rest of the day included a boat tour on the Seine, which I've never done. It was really interesting to see the city and its monuments from the river, offering a very different perspective than one gets when  approaching sites from the street. 

Then we just had to fit in a trip to Galleries Lafayette. I can't recall visiting this grand dame of department stores before, and it truly did impress. The lower level carries over 150 shoe lines, each with their own mini department. The store sells every conceivable line of goods, from the obtainable to the best of luxury goods, plus a restaurant where a very tall glass of wine will set you back only 2.7 euros. I needed it by the time we made our way through the floors up to the top level for a food and drink break. It can all become a bit overwhelming and I'm looking forward to a little day trip out of the city tomorrow to visit another favorite spot in France. More on that tomorrow...


  1. The ceiling is breathtaking! The colors and images are splendid. I hope to see this someday for myself. Thanks for sharing.

  2. That ceiling is impeccable! I love the detailed shots! One of many reasons to visit Paris, I'm sure.

  3. If you have time there is an Chagall Exhibition right now at the museum of Luxembourg. My parents saw it it is a bit busy and the museum has narrow rooms but they said it was beautiful!

  4. The ceiling is great. However, I would have to disagree about the building - it is definitely worth visiting just to see. Overdone? This is PARIS! That's what makes the city so magical, everything is over the top. This is one of my favorite sites to visit in Paris, I think the architecture is breathtaking.

  5. I knew someone would disagree about what I said regarding the building itself, that is what I love about blogging! Thanks for sharing your love of this building, and the general nature of Paris overall.

    I have loved hearing my kid's responses to everything during this trip, as even though I've been to many of these spots a couple times before, they have helped me see things freshly through their eyes.

  6. We took our children to Paris a few years ago (they were 5 & 8) and it was a magical experience. Paris is so welcoming to children.

    One stop we did not make was the Opera I'm glad I saw your post. Chagall is one of my all time favorite artists and I did not recall that he had painted the ceiling. Amazing.

    Hope you enjoy every minute of your trip!
    xoxo Elizabeth

  7. Wow, now that is a ceiling. Chagall always seems so whimsical to me. On a separate note, 150 shoe lines? My head would explode.

  8. Hi Janell, I LOVE Marc Chagall's paintings. I never tire of looking at them. Thanks so much for sharing his famous celing!


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