Saturday, December 5, 2015

Friday night I: Palais Garnier

I live a life of sumptuous luxury. (Alternating with canny poverty, so that it all averages out.) Last night was a brief dart into the extravagant, rococo Palace Garnier to see a double-feature opera, Bluebeard's Cast-Bleue and La Voix humaine.
Palace Garnier's entrance hall is a masterwork of frothy carvings and trompe l'oeil paintings imitating the same.
Built for the opera, as a stage and centerpiece to impress audiences, with the surrounding blocks and roads shaped to make way for it, Palace Garnier is extremely palatial, though it was never a royal home. The lights are now electric but give a decent impression of dim, warm gas-lights.
This is the zone where fancy alcohol is offered beforehand and during intermission. I think the Phantom of the Opera lives in this wing somewhere.
The curtains are real, but there are also painted-on curtains. Real windows, and painted. Real arches, and fake. The sky is real, but the ceiling blocks it with a painted sky; it is always sunny, with fluffy clouds, inside the opera hall. Real cherubs, real half-naked or all-naked nymphs, flitting around the ceiling like birds trapped in a train station. I took some mandatory blurry, ill-lit selfies [not pictured here].
Nimble, pert women --- mostly naked, some bewinged --- crowd about the corners of the ceiling, as if searching for the source of the heavenly music.
If rococo ever makes a comeback, I will gladly count myself among its devoted followers. Modern buildings' off-white walls and grey architectural features, the devotion to sheer flat surfaces and huge reflective windows, forces far too much introspection and beggars the imagination, offering no fodder for daydreams. Much better to beggar the purse, I think, in gilding intricate details so hidden in the ceiling that they are invisible from the floor.
An aura of elegance and refinement is subtly and unsubtly reinforced by the Louis XIV-style gilding of anything stationary.
The music was lush and vibrant, although it did not match the rococo theater, and the set and direction was minimalist, stark, and unsettling. Even in the nosebleed seats, where knees and shoulders are jostled together and there are no aisles, it was a wondrous spectacle to behold. (Plus, we were close enough to the ceiling to count the feathers on cherubs' wings and wonder if the sconce-supporting nude maidens' metal arms ever tire.)

This post's theme word is cosset, "to fondle, caress, pet, indulge, pamper." The cossetting dark embraced the audience of the opera house.

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