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Palais Garnier Reopens
by Joel Kasow
PARIS, 8 February 1996 Closed for renovations for 18 months, the Palais Garnier will reopen its doors on the first of March. Not only has the auditorium been completely refurbished, but the work done backstage should ensure that the more than centenary Opéra can operate effectively well into the 21st century. Dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces have received a facelift, and, even more important, every bit of electric wiring - some of which dated back to the previous century - was removed and replaced by the most up-to-date installation possible. The mélange of cables had become dangerously confusing and the authorities are now relieved that a coherent system has taken its place.

To accomplish this, a false ceiling had to be installed high above the stage for protection, and the existing grilles were replaced. At the same time the fly space was adapted for contemporary usage. All the motors and winches were removed to an area alongside the flies which has been soundproofed so that audiences will now be spared the grumblings which have until the present marked some scenery changes. The catwalks which previously took a serpentine course have been straightened out so that backstage security has been improved.

The central computer which will regulate scenery changes was still being configured when I visited the site, but Gilles Modolo, Technical Director of the Opéra National de Paris and responsible for both the Palais Garnier and the Bastille, assured me that all would be in peak condition by 1 March. The first production, Cosi fan Tutte, will not make any extravagant demands on either machinery or those controlling it so that the learning process will be gradual; by the time Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie rolls around to open the season in September 1996 who knows what we'll witness.

At the front of the house, untouched since 1953, the gilt in the auditorium has been freshened up, the Chagall ceiling has been cleaned for the first time since its installation in 1964 (does anyone remember what the old ceiling looked like?), other areas have been spruced up and lit so that they are now visible, some of the upholstery has been replaced and the wood has been restored to its original tint. An additional surprise is the new fire curtain, last replaced in 1952, which is an exact copy of the original, but we can now appreciate the freshness of its colors.

For the comfort of the spectators, air conditioning has been installed, which will make end-of-season performances a more pleasurable experience, and the elevators have been modernized.

I will report again after the opening performances, the above-mentioned Cosi which will be conducted by Jeffrey Tate and Don Giovanni in concert conducted by Sir Georg Solti.

Click on the captions below to see more picture of the renovation of Palais Garnier:

Behind the scences

Cleaning of the Chagall ceiling

The artists working on the new fire curtain

The new fire curtain and the original one

Mozart at Palais Garnier

Palais Garnier
Place de l'Opera
75009 Paris

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