Private Tours of the Garnier Palace Backstage, Paris, France

Guided tours behind the scenes of the Palais Garnier are a unique moment. As a well-known historical building, Palais Garnier is known as the representative of Napoleon III style, with rich architectural decoration and various unknown secret stories. Discover the backstage and public areas of the theatres. Access places unknown to the general public, such as the dance costume creation workshops at the Palais Garnier or the jewelry and wig creation workshops. Discover all aspects of this landmark, including those less frequently visited, on a private guided tour led by an experienced professional guide.

The Palais Garnier unveils its most secret places such as the “Opera’ s lake”, the costume workshops or the mysterious “salle des cabestans”. The tour open the doors to its workshops where sets are created and assembled. The tour then continues to the heart of the theater whose stage machinery and equipment are among the most unique in the world. The funds collected thanks to the backstage tours support the activities of the Paris Opera: shows, tours, educational programs or equipment purchasing for the workshops.

The tour includes the water tank at the origin of the many legends that surround the Palais Garnier and the history of its construction, the capstans room, machinery room more than 15 meters below the stage, the Foyer de the Dance at the back of the stage, considered his “antechamber”. The Grand Staircase, whose majesty is enhanced by the richness of the marble, leads to the performance hall and the Grand Foyer. The latter, intended for wandering during the intermission, is inspired by the galleries of the castles of the classical age. The gilding, the mirror effects, the magnificent ceiling painted by Paul Baudry. The auditorium, designed as a jewelry box, represents the climax of the visit. Dressed in red and gold, warmed by the bold hues of Marc Chagall’s ceiling, it plunges the viewer into a dreamlike atmosphere.

The Rotonde du Glacier, located at the level of the first boxes, is decorated with a ceiling painted by Clairin and tapestry cartoons from the Manufacture des Gobelins illustrating in particular hunting and fishing. Beneath the performance hall, the Rotonde des Abonnés designates the former area reserved for subscribers, who accessed it through the covered entrance located on the east facade, which has now become L’Opéra Restaurant. Charles Garnier hid the signature of his work there (in the ceiling), even though this practice was prohibited for a public building. In the extension, under the Grand Escalier, you can admire the majestic Bassin de la Pythie.

The Association for the Outreach of the Paris Opera (Arop) offers unique private tours of the Palais Garnier. Theexceptional visits to show you behind the scenes of the remarkable theatres. In addition to a show, these visits allow you to give an exclusive character to your public relations operations. Invite you to share a unique experience and discover the soul of a theatre.

Corporate visits and private tours of the Palais Garnier last about an hour and a half (two hours with the sewing workshops) and are led by a private tour guide carefully selected by the Arop teams, available in French, English, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian or Dutch. Children under 8 years old cannot participate in the backstage tours for security reasons. Some backstage areas are very confined and will thus not be available for people with disabilities or with reduced mobility.

Public areas
Since its construction, the Palais Garnier has been a mythical place in Paris. The Opera has seen many of the greatest musical and theatrical works pass through its walls. The greatest secrets of Palais Garnier are in the public areas, hidden in beautiful ornate details, and experienced commentators will tell you these forgotten stories on a VIP guided tour.

Once past the subscribers’ rotunda, the Bassin de la Pythie leads to the grand staircase and the sumptuous nave thirty meters high. This nave, built in marble of various colors, houses the steps of the double spiral staircase which leads to the foyers and to the different floors of the performance hall. At the bottom of the stairs, a real theater within the theater, two female allegories holding bouquets of light welcome the spectators.

The Grand Escalier and the Grand Foyer
The Grand Staircase, whose majesty is enhanced by the richness of its marble, will lead you to the Auditorium and Grand Foyer. The Grand Foyer was built as a place for audience members to gather during the intermission, and its architecture is inspired by galeries and castles from the classical era. Its gildings, mirrors and beautiful ceiling painted by Paul Baudry are similar to those of the grand Hall of Mirrors of Versailles.

The Show Room
In the tradition of Italian-style theatres, the horseshoe-shaped auditorium known as the French, due to the arrangement of seats according to their category, was designed to see and be seen. Its metal structure, masked by marble, stucco, velvet and gilding, supports the 8 tons that the bronze and crystal chandelier weighs, equipped with 340 lights. The stage curtain was created by the theater painters and decorators Auguste Rubé (1817-1899) and Philippe Chaperon (1823-1906), according to the instructions of Charles Garnier. The curtain was replaced identically in 1951 and then in 1996. The ceiling painted by Marc Chagall and commissioned by the Minister of Culture André Malraux was inaugurated on September 23, 1964.

The Rotunda of the Glacier
At the end of a long gallery is the rotunda of the glacier, a fresh and luminous rotunda decorated with a ceiling painted by Clairin (1843-1919) depicting a round of bacchantes and fauns, completed with tapestry cartoons illustrating various refreshments as well as fishing and hunting. Completed after the opening of the Palais Garnier, this salon evokes the aesthetics of the Belle Époque.

The Avant-Foyer
The vault of avant-foyer 5 is covered with mosaics on a shimmering gold background. The view of the nave from the grand staircase is spectacular. In the big hearth,the interplay of mirrors and windows further accentuates its vast dimensions. The ceiling painted by Paul Baudry (1828-1886) features themes from the history of music. The lyre is the main element: it reigns over all the decorative vocabulary, on the capitals as well as on the heating grids or the door handles. A copy of the bust of Charles Garnier by the sculptor Carpeaux (1827-1875) is in the center of the foyer, near one of the windows where you can see the perspective of the avenue de l’Opéra as far as the Louvre, to contemplate more largely from the loggia. The sun and moon lounges offer a symbolic and poetic transition to the other spaces.

Orchestra Gallery, Grand Vestibule
The orchestra gallery offers a last look at the Palais Garnier and offers an audiovisual document relating its history. The large vestibule with statues of the four composers Rameau, Lulli, Gluck and Handel, leads to the exit.

The Rotonde des Abonnés and the Bassin de la Pythie
Underneath the Auditorium, the Rotonde des Abonnés is the area formerly reserved for members, who would access it through the entrance on the Eastern side of the building – where the current restaurant CoCo is located. Here, Charles Garnier hid his signature (in the ceiling), despite the fact that the opera is a public building and this practice was forbidden. Straight ahead, underneath the Grand Staircase, you can admire the exquisite Bassin de la Pythie.

The balcony
In eight rows, the seats, identical to the previous ones, are clearly overhanging those of the orchestra. They not only benefit from a very clear view of the scene, but they are also at the ideal location where the main axis is located, the “point of view”, from which the decorator draws the cutting plans and vanishing lines to establish the picture of the decor that it establishes. Then, other lines are used in the very high, lateral seats and the first row of orchestra, according to the different rules of scenographic perspective. The privileged spectators of the balcony can see a decor and a staging as they were thought by the team of creators.

The Lodges
The boxes and back rooms as well as their seats and benches are dressed in velvet and their partitions in damask and drapes. All upholstery features a subtle interplay of crimson shades. The most famous and mysterious lodge has a front door where there is (since 2011) a bronze plaque reading “Lodge of the Phantom of the Opera”; it is located at the level of the first lodges. This famous box is number 5. The proscenium boxes overlook the orchestra pit in the doubleau arch forming the stage frame.

For centuries, it was customary to have ten dressing rooms directly on the stage, both for the authors and composers and for the other participants in the show. These locations are used to improve access to the projectors and portcullis arranged on the lighting bridge fixed to the rear of the metal valance, part of the mobile frame.

The fourth side boxes are stalls, surmounted at the rear by tiered armchairs. From the front, it is the amphitheater or more familiarly the chicken coop or paradise. The fifth boxes, front and side, for less than eighty spectators are places with extremely reduced visibility. In the past, some of these so-called blind places were mainly intended for listeners: music lovers, composers, students of the Conservatory who could follow the music and the singing with or without a score. Some of these dressing rooms are fitted out for cinematographic projections and also the tracking projectors which make it possible to precisely follow an evolving artist on the stage.

Library-Museum of the Opera
The collections of the Library-Museum of the Opera (National Library of France) preserve the memory of the theater for three centuries. The gallery of the museum presents permanently, paintings, drawings, photographs and models of decorations in volume. After the fall of the Empire, the premises were never finished: on the stairs leading to the temporary exhibition hall, there remains the massive apparatus of stone blocks as it was in 1870. Access to the reading room, installed in the rotunda of the emperor, is reserved for researchers.

Orchestra Gallery, Grand Vestibule
The orchestra gallery offers a last look at the Palais Garnier and offers an audiovisual document relating its history. The large vestibule with statues of the four composers Rameau, Lulli, Gluck and Handel, leads to the exit.

Auditorium and backstage areas
The backstage tour is a privilege reserved for those who choose to take part in this extraordinary visit.

The auditorium
The auditorium, designed like a jewelry box, is the highlight of your visit. It is covered with gold and red velvet, and the vivid colors of the ceiling painted by Marc Chagall give it a warm tone, allowing the audience to sink into a dream-like atmosphere.

Behind the scenes
These are the right and left parts of the stage frame, invisible to the viewers. Their name comes from the time when the frames, covered with painted fabrics forming the side decorations, were fixed on a system of posts, the masts, themselves embedded in the carriages circulating under the floor by sliding there. At this point in the scene are the scenery boxes or heaps where the waiting scenery elements are stored.

The traditional machinery skilfully made it possible to make a change at sight where one could in a few seconds reveal another decor: geometric, oblique or middle slide frames, trusses, curtains and main, friezes, gauzes, nets, air bands, ground bands, platforms and all kinds of objects could be changed in a single maneuver using the mechanisms of the drums located in the undersides, the hangers and the service walkways. A special drum, in one piece from the face to the distance, made it possible to engineer the combination of this kind of staging effect very popular with the public.

The wings of the Opéra Garnier are each 18 meters wide. There are several service elevators and high mobile towers to fix lighting fixtures. Artists await their entry. The wings have a name: the courtyard side is on the left for the artist facing the public, the garden side is on his right. The machinists here are the stage workers, they are divided into several brigades according to the area of ​​their function on this very large stage: the couriers, the gardeners, in front or in the distance, the trumeautiers work in the center of the wings, the trumeau.

The organization of their work, during rehearsals or performances, is described by conduct led by the stage director, the managers, the stage manager and the brigadiers, a hierarchy where improvisation is impossible. If the artist “returns”, it is to go to the center of the stage; if the operator “returns”, it is to go backstage.

The dressing rooms of the artists
There are about 80 individual boxes and collective boxes of all sizes, which can accommodate up to five hundred artists. They are spread over several floors, their windows opening onto interior courtyards, onto Place Diaghilev and back onto Rue Scribe and Rue Gluck, up to the two pavilions housing the library and the Rotunda du Glacier. The choir/ladies’ box and the choir/men’s box both measure more than 290 m2 and are both located on the Rue Gluck side.

There is a set of individual grand boxes for the stars or stars, such as that of the soprano singer Fanny Heldy, decorated in Empire style and bearing the no.45, near the stage. Located on the garden side, it is currently reserved for conductors. The male figuration is housed on the second entresol, under the Dance foyer; the female figure is on the third floor; locker rooms on the mezzanine are for the musicians.

The water tank
In the fifth basement of the Opera hides a mysterious lake remains one of the palace’s best-kept secrets. Underneath the stage, closest to the building’s foundations, you will find the water tank which is located beneath the edifice and which gave birth to many myths and legends about the Palais Garnier and its construction. An artificial lake. The latter is even essential to the building; during the construction of the Opera, the fragile soil and water infiltration posed a major problem, and the idea of ​​a large watertight tank germinated.

The secret passages
Originally, two main passages made up the network of secret passages of the Opera. Coming from the basements, they crossed the Grand Foyer to emerge on the fourth floor in a space called “skating”, in reference to the slides performed by the little opera rats. Today, one of these arteries is still passable but the other is occupied by a downspout.

The cabestans room
Fifteen meters below the stage, the cabestans room brings you to the heart of the machinery of a 19th century Parisian theater. Here, you will discover the mechanisms that were used to make performers and sets appear on stage.

The Foyer de la Danse
At the back of the stage, in what is called the “antechamber”, you will find the Foyer de la Danse with its strikingly beautiful chandelier and its magnificent paintings. The Foyer de la Danse used to be a meeting area for privileged members to be introduced to artists ; nowadays, ballet dancers still use this space to rehearse and warm up before coming on stage.

The Restoration works
Since 1990, the Paris Opera has started a major restoration campaign for the Palais Garnier. The major works carried out on the stage, the auditorium and the main façade, as well as the restoration of the grand foyer and its adjoining rooms, are continuing over several years and are now being extended in an operation to bring the electrical networks up to standard. the building.

In 2000, the facelift followed by a thorough and scientific restoration of the main facade of the opera led the public to reconsider this elevation blackened and damaged by time and to a complete rediscovery of its decor in its original polychromy, its gilding and the variety of materials that make it up, some of which come from distant lands. The golden initials of Napoleon and Eugénie appearing on the medallions surmounting the facade, removed after the fall of the Second Empire, are restored on this occasion.

May 2004, the prestigious decorations imagined by the architect for the grand foyer and inaugurated for the first time on January 5, 1875 regain their lost luster. The French upholsterer Charles Jouffre was entrusted with the restoration of the large curtains and wall hangings of this prestigious building site, new long golden curtains, shimmering with light veins, draped in their sumptuous folds and communicate to the foyer a splendor of good quality.

Sewing workshops
Choose to complete your visit to the Palais Garnier with an exceptional discovery of the dance costume creation workshops. The workshops located outside the building itself, but designed by the same architect assisted by the engineer Gustave Eiffel, the set assembly workshops as well as stores and reserves are located on Boulevard Berthier, in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, they are named Ateliers Berthier.

Walk through the atelier “Flou” (for soft clothes) dedicated to women’s costumes, the tailoring atelier producing men’s outfits, the millinery as well as the costume decoration workshops. Behind these doors, more than 30 professionals work on restoring and creating the costumes of the Paris Opera Ballet.

During this exclusive tour you will discover not only the backstage areas and the historical 19th century “Central costumes” room storing the creations of the latest productions, but you will also learn the costume-making secrets from the Company’s productions.

“Arts & Crafts” backstage tour
Come and discover all the craftsmanship of Opera costume-making.

Since the opening of the Opéra Bastille in 1989, the professionals of these workshops work daily to create lavish costumes dedicated to the lyrical performances of the Paris Opera House. Through this exclusive tour, you will enter the heart of these workshops and dive into the world of costume design by accessing areas closed to the public until today.

The lyrical costume workshops Enter the world of performance in sewing workshops, where thousands of opera costumes are created each year. Visit the fabric library, which houses all the samples of the suppliers ; the atelier Flou, where women’s costumes are made ; the tailor’s workshop, where all men’s suits are created, as well as the decoration or millinery workshops.

Wig-making and makeup workshops Wig-making, hairdressing, make-up, special effects on the skin but also accessories fitting, admire the workplace of these multi-faceted artisans. This workshop manufactures and revives on average not less than 100 wigs per production.

Private reception
You can choose to start or end your backstage tour with a cocktail reception or a breakfast, during one hour in a private area reserved for your guests. Book a performance with the Premium Ticket order. Book up to 100 seats (Optima or first category) and personalize your evening by choosing services according to your needs, from a simple glass of champagne to a cocktail or dinner after the show. The Premium Ticket guarantees you priority access to the best seats in the theater.

At the Grand Foyer, at the Bassin de la Pythie, on a terrace overlooking the rooftops of Paris or at Bastille’s Panoramic Foyer, the Paris Opera House puts at your disposal many spaces adapted to all types of events, at the heart of the city and throughout the year. Extend your visit experience with an exclusive evening with your guests in an exceptional setting. These vary according to the duration and do not include technical expenses or services (catering, manager, etc.).

Take advantage of the technologies (screens, sound systems, control room, etc.) of the Amphitheater and the Studio of the Opera Bastille to organize your seminars and conventions. The special packaged offer with the possibility of organizing a lunch or dinner (caterer price not included) in the Foyer Panoramique, followed by a backstage tour of the theater with a private tour guide. Complete your day at the Opera by taking your guests to an exclusive backstage tour of one of the greatest theaters in the world followed by a cocktail or an evening dinner in the Foyer Panoramique.