I have always wanted to go to a concert at Opéra Garnier. If I had a bucket list, this would be on it. So when we went to our marriage retreat and got the little jars to fill out with date ideas, I stuck a slip of paper with Opera Garnier inside. We pulled the slip out in April.
Of course everything was sold out for that month, but I discovered that the website has a classifieds section specifically for people who want to buy and sell their opera tickets. It’s all done officially so there’s no threat of losing your money to a scam. We booked the first date we could that corresponded with my in-laws being able to take the kids.
It was all very exciting. Drive up to the opera and find a good parking spot? Check!
Eat dinner in an over-priced for mediocre food in an Art Deco restaurant that caters to the opera crowd? Check!
Selfie in front of the famous facade? Check!
Wait in line to go through the metal detector? Check!
Approach the marble staircase.
There are statues and gilded facade everywhere you look.
There are people elegantly dressed and those less so, though at one time you couldn’t enter the Opera if you didn’t have a suit and tie. My mother-in-law went with her godfather when she was a teenager and she saw Charles de Gaulle there and was introduced to his prime minister. Her godfather knew people.
We had seating in the orchestra section, or … le baignoire. The bathtub!
I think that’s normally good seating because you’re right up close, but there were a few problems with it. For one thing, (and I assume it’s like that even in the balcony), the 1875 auditorium has rows of seats that are squashed one against the other so that your nose is in the hair of the person in front of you (and the seat is directly in front of you and not spaced so you can actually see anything). For another thing, the aisle is soon swallowed up. More on that in a minute.
The Opéra Garnier is brilliant. Private box seats on both sides.
Rows that quickly fill up with the opera-going crowd.
Rows in the balcony behind.
An elaborately painted screen for the curtain.
A painting by Chagal on the ceiling.
Everything was arranged to charm. However, when it was time for the ballet to start, the people still standing in the aisle pulled out the folding chairs attached to the end of the aisle and sat down. When you pull the chairs out and swivel them to face the front, there goes the aisle! There is no emergency exit, and definitely no way to get to the bathroom without creating a stir. Just rows upon rows of chairs that extend from one wall to the other.
I spent the first half-hour of the concert trying to calm my claustrophobic hyperventilating.
And then there was that big head perched right in front of me. He smelled like hair. Not very clean hair. And he filled my entire field of vision so I had to crane my head to see what was going on. Perhaps that was just as well because once the ballet started, I quickly saw I would hate it.
It was one of those contemporary ballets where everyone wears coloured leotards head to toe and there’s no music, only weird sounds and random talking that’s supposed to tell a story, but heaven only knows what. They just moved in weird supposed storytelling movements amid plastic decorations and we all scratched our heads and pretended to enjoy it in the name of art. This went on for an hour.
Of course I couldn’t really see what they were doing around the big head, but a few limbs appeared on either side of the black oblong shape. I don’t feel like I missed out. The only bright spot was when Matthieu reached over to squeeze my hand in the middle of the ballet because he knew how much I hated it.
The second act promised Beethoven, so I was all excited, except that it was more of the same contemporary with the three dancers showing their boo-boos (elbow, knee, shoulder) for 20 minutes, set to a few measures of Beethoven on loop. And there were two more things after that.
We didn’t stick around for the third act even though the tickets were expensive. As we ran towards the exit, hand in hand, scarves floating in the wind, the security at the exit asked if we were leaving définitivement. And we’re like, oh yeah!
This is us playing hookey.
Opéra Garnier is a neat experience. But if you go, pay extra and get a box seat so you can get in and out of there easily and you have a decent view of the stage.
And shoot for something like Puccini.