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1861-1875 : The construction of Charles Garnier's Opéra

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  1. The showcase of the Second Empire
  2. The completion of Charles Garnier's Opéra : a long and difficult task
  3. Beyond the print of Napoléon III, Charles Garnier's style

I do not engage politics with monuments, I have quite enough to do with architecture', said Charles Garnier, the architect of Garnier's Opéra in Paris. The construction of Garnier's Opéra was launched by Napoléon III and represents one of the most sumptuous buildings of the 19th century. Between the creation of the Académie Royale de Musique by Louis XIV in 1669, and the completion of Garnier's Opéra in 1875, opera had not a specific building in Paris. In 1869, Napoléon III decided the construction of a new opera. He knew that it would be a political symbol of the Second Empire's power. A competition was launched to find an architect and the winner was Charles Garnier, a young architect of 36 years old. In 1861, he started the construction of this prestigious monument that was part of Haussmann's renovation plan. The building of the new Opéra took fifteen years. It was interrupted by many incidents as the war against Prussia, the fall of the Second Empire (1870) and the Commune (1871). The construction of Garnier's Opéra is very interesting because political events interact with the completion of this architectural masterpiece. If Charles Garnier used to say that politics were not represented in its design, the influence of the Second Empire is obvious. In fact, political decisions were so important in the building's construction that one could ask if Garnier's Opéra was just a political symbol, used differently by two distinct regimes.

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