THE PALAIS GARNIER: TOWARD AN ARCHITECTURE OF DANCE AND MUSIC IN XIX CENTURY FRANCE
VRANAS OLSEN, CYNTHIA
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As a doctoral candidate, this writer has focused on the Romantic Movement of 19th century France, where the arts mutually influenced each other, just as in ancient Greece and Rome. This research highlights the interrelationships of the Arts to Architecture by examining artists such as Hugo in drama, Gautier in literature, Delacroix in painting, Chopin and Adam in music, Noverre in dance and Garnier in architecture. Although Noverre’s specialty was dance, he believed that theater buildings were first monuments to the arts. For Garnier, 100 years later, the Arts and Architecture were not separate identities. They complemented and enhanced one another. Both books, Observations sur la Construction d’une Nouvelle Salle de l’Opera by Jean-Georges Noverre and Le Theatre by Charles Garnier, were publications translated extensively from French to the English language as primary sources. In designing a theater building, the architect is responsible for synthesizing and translating myriad information in order to create an appropriate and responsive language. An invaluable knowledge of technical considerations - set design, lighting, backstage equipment, sightlines, acoustics and facilities for performers - is critical, as is balancing the client’s concerns and the user/spectator’s needs. As performance expresses a cultural instinct for communicative involvement, this writer believes that a theater building, itself, is a reflection of the arts. It is art, therefore, that inextricably shapes the programs and designs of our theater buildings. The Palais Garnier, completed in 1875 for the Paris Opéra and its associated Paris Opéra Ballet, is thought to mirror the cultural complexity of the age. Before this time, the Paris Opéra was housed in the Salle Le Peletier, a temporary building with inadequate facilities that did not reflect the existing, lavish, highly skilled art that was performed. Garnier’s travels to ancient sites in Greece and Rome resulted in his classic book, Le Théatre. By writing, he immersed himself in the study of the physical qualities of the theater, and it eventually became his architecture. The form and character of the theater buildings studied reflect the changing social structures, technology and patronage that sponsored them. The Palais Garnier reflects a unique intersection of the arts, along with the political, social and economic influences of that time. Musicians turned their attention toward the expressions of intense feelings that were influenced by poetry and the visual arts. The Palais Garnier, with its grandeur and opulence, became its own “performance”. The multi-disciplinary nature of architecture and the study of the interrelationships of the arts can inform creativity. Just like the timeless, majestic Palais Garnier in Paris, in 19th century France, new architectural structures can become their own profound monumental and memorable “performances” for future generations.