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Phantom Monkeys of the Opera

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Long time readers will recall that Kongo is a bit of an opera buff.  He also likes theater and his all time, never to be exceeded, favorite is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1988 musical Phantom of the Opera, based on the Gaston Leroux novel written in 1910 and inspired by the magnificent Opéra Garnier in Paris.  So naturally, when Kongo visited Paris a few weeks ago a trip to this icon of France was a high note of his visit.  Kongo has seen Phantom in London (three times), New York, Washington, DC, San Diego, and Abu Dhabi so being able to scamper up the Grand Staircase was pretty special but he was truly overwhelmed by the beauty of opulence of the rest of the building.

The Grand Staircase. Phantom aficionados will remember the famous Masquerade scene that begins the second act and is set on the opera staircase. Remember the strange little monkey in the play with the music box where he cranks out the melody of Masquerade? This is Kongo’s turf!
Looking up from the bottom of the Grand Staircase.
The stage.
The ceiling in the main auditorium of the Opera House, painted by Marc Chagall. Beneath the ceiling hangs the grand chandelier, which is famously introduced at the beginning scene of Phantom of the Opera.
The Grand Foyer. In Kongo’s opinion this room exceeds the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. It is absolutely magnificent.
Balconies overlooking the main gathering spot below the Grand Staircase. If you squint your eyes and listen carefully you can almost hear the glittering crowds of the 19th Century as the gathered here to watch and be watched
In an alcove at one end of the Grand Foyer Kongo was almost sunburned from this radiant ceiling painting and chandelier. Surprises like this greeted you everywhere throughout the Opera House.
Today the Opera House mostly hosts ballet performances and there are costumes from classic performances on display throughout the building.

The Opera House was only two blocks from Kongo’s hotel on Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement.  The Opera Metro stop is there so it is easy to get to the Opera…just get on any Metro and get off at the Opera Stop and exit on the Rue de la Paix side of the station and you will see the magnificent building.  Kongo took the first picture of this series after he emerged from the Metro one evening (actually it was very early morning) on his last day in Paris.

Napoleon III authorized the building during the great reconstruction of Paris during the Second Empire.  Of all the magnificent buildings erected during this period the Opera House was the most expensive.  It’s easy to understand why.

There are frequent tours through the building in different languages.  Kongo got his times mixed up and arrived promptly for the French-speaking tour instead of English.  Mrs. Kongo said, no worries, we’ll just tag along and figure it out.  Well, after fifteen minutes of non-stop talking by the guide and Kongo standing there with a glazed smile on his simian face, nodding brightly at a discourse he was completely clueless about, he beat a discreet exit from the group at the first opportunity and explored on his own.  He obviously missed important points along the way but he certainly learned enough to know that when you go to Paris you MUST SEE the Opera House.

Naturally you exit through the gift shop where Mrs. Kongo acquired two ballerina costumes for a couple of little phantoms who live in Newbury Park.  The four-year old is already planning her grand debut at pre-school “bal-LAY” class in the fall where she can show up in her feathered tutu from Swan Lake and make a big splash!  You can see these outfits on a recent Kongo post here.  You may also want to read about Kongo’s adventures at the Opera in Vienna here.

Travel safe.  Have fun.

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