Once you climb up the stairs of the Opéra metro, to reach the streets above, the first view you are met with, is of the majestic Palais Garnier or Opéra Garnier. This was built under Napoleon III (from 1861 to 1875) and it is named after the architect Charles Garnier under whom it was built. The Opéra Garnier is a symbol of the kind of opulence and affluence invested in the appreciation of art, in a bygone era.
The art and architecture of the Opéra Garnier has been acclaimed internationally and today the building is a protected monument under the French government. However, this piece is about art that unlike the Opéra, quite understated, but quite a fitting tribute to it nevertheless. It is called ‘Les Secrets de l’Opéra’. This piece of art is spread over the whole of Opéra metro station and consists of tiny silhouettes depicting scenes from within the Opéra Garnier.
These tiny silhouettes which have been glued to the walls of the metro, capture moments from behind the scene of an opera and pays homage to the litany of tiny decisions that create the grandeur of any operatic spectacle. There are silhouettes representing all the artists and technicians whose involvement is essential in bringing a show alive. These include musicians, conductors, hairdressers, make-up artists, set-builders, costume designers, directors, light technicians, and of course ballet dancers.
This piece of art has been created under the initiative of the RATP. There is also a QR code that you can scan in order to be auditorily transported to a world of opera, with musical fragments by the incredible voice of sopranos like Giulia Semenzato, Victor Nebbiolo Di Castri and Valeria Zane.
What I love about this piece is how it marries high-brown and low-brow art. One on hand, ‘Les Secrets de l’Opéra’ makes the history and the beauty of the opera accessible and on the other hand, it transforms the whole metro station into a visually and musically enriched walk, but only for those who would like to stop and look around. The visually diminutive silhouettes are an understated and ironically juxtaposed contrast to the opulence, theatrics and larger-than-life characteristic of the Opéra: the delicate shadows almost giving a glimpse of the soft vulnerability, balance and hard work required to create works of fortuitous and grand art.
The Opéra Metro station can be reached on Line 3, 7 and 8 of the Paris metro.
Cover photo and all photos above : @paris_shuffle