The Phantom of the Opera HTML version
The Paris Opera House
THE SCENE OF GASTON LEROUX'S NOVEL, "THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA"
That Mr. Leroux has used, for the scene of his story, the Paris Opera House as it really is
and has not created a building out of his imagination, is shown by this interesting
description of it taken from an article which appeared in Scribner's Magazine in 1879, a
short time after the building was completed:
"The new Opera House, commenced under the Empire and finished under the Republic,
is the most complete building of the kind in the world and in many respects the most
beautiful. No European capital possesses an opera house so comprehensive in plan and
execution, and none can boast an edifice equally vast and splendid.
"The site of the Opera House was chosen in 1861. It was determined to lay the foundation
exceptionally deep and strong. It was well known that water would be met with, but it
was impossible to foresee at what depth or in what quantity it would be found.
Exceptional depth also was necessary, as the stage arrangements were to be such as to
admit a scene fifty feet high to be lowered on its frame. It was therefore necessary to lay
a foundation in a soil soaked with water which should be sufficiently solid to sustain a
weight of 22,000,000 pounds, and at the same time to be perfectly dry, as the cellars were
intended for the storage of scenery and properties. While the work was in progress, the
excavation was kept free from water by means of eight pumps, worked by steam power,
and in operation, without interruption, day and night, from March second to October
thirteenth. The floor of the cellar was covered with a layer of concrete, then with two
coats of cement, another layer of concrete and a coat of bitumen. The wall includes an
outer wall built as a coffer-dam, a brick wall, a coat of cement, and a wall proper, a little
over a yard thick. After all this was done the whole was filled with water, in order that the
fluid, by penetrating into the most minute interstices, might deposit a sediment which
would close them more surely and perfectly than it would be possible to do by hand.
Twelve years elapsed before the completion of the building, and during that time it was
demonstrated that the precautions taken secured absolute impermeability and solidity.
"The events of 1870 interrupted work just as it was about to be prosecuted most
vigorously, and the new Opera House was put to new and unexpected uses. During the
siege, it was converted into a vast military storehouse and filled with a heterogeneous
mass of goods. After the siege the building fell into the hands of the Commune and the
roof was turned into a balloon station. The damage done, however, was slight.
"The fine stone employed in the construction was brought from quarries in Sweden,
Scotland, Italy, Algeria, Finland, Spain, Belgium and France. While work on the exterior
was in progress, the building was covered in by a wooden shell, rendered transparent by
thousands of small panes of glass. In 1867 a swarm of men, supplied with hammers and