It’s an April morning on the Place de l’Opéra in Paris and Gilles Djeraouane, house manager of the Palais Garnier, perches on a roof ridge of the opera house‘s majestic dome at a vertigo-inducing height above street level. A few paces further along the roof, lapped by sun-sparked clouds, stands the Garnier’s crowning decoration, a statue of Apollo with his golden lyre.
Planted limpet-like on the 19th-century metal stairway scaling the dome, I look down queasily at the flat-topped section of roof Mr. Djeraouane is now indicating.
“Over there are five beehives,” he says. The bees are tended by a retired prop man, explains Mr. Djeraouane, and the floral honey is sold in the gift shop. I nod and say, “I’m ready to go back down.”
On May 12, as part of the European Opera Days festival, the Palais Garnier will open its doors for visitors to view the auditorium and public areas for free. Despite this, hidden treasures, such as this rarely seen rear view of Apollo and operatic beehives, cannot be shown off.
Inside, worn wooden stairs lead past time-blackened stone walls autographed in chalk by generations of backstage staff. In the gantry, 45 meters above the stage, I tread warily across a metal grid through which run the vertical wires for raising and lowering scenery. “During a performance, it’s like a harp with the wires going up and down,” Mr. Djeraouane explains.
Continuing the tour, we skirt the edge of a ballet studio where, beneath the soaring ribs of Eiffel Tower-style girders, sweat-spangled dancers in practice clothes are rehearsing for Kenneth MacMillan‘s “Manon.”
Strange Random Opera Quote:
- Palais Garnier – Theatre de l’Opera- The Paris Opera House (europeanhomerentals.wordpress.com)
- Les Abeilles – The Bees of Paris (romancingthebee.com)