Whenever I photograph a door I wonder about its provenance, who and what has happened across said door. I thought I might pick one of my doors from #Thursdaydoors and look a little deeper into its history or…………
Above is the entrance to Monaco’s, 524-seater, Salle Garnier built in just over eight months as part of the Monte Carlo Casino the style of which was heavily influenced by that of Paris’ Palais Garnier as many of the same artists worked on both.
Commissioned by Charles III, the hall was inaugurated on 25 January 1879 with a performance by Sarah Bernhardt dressed as a nymph. The first opera performed there was Robert Planquette’s Le Chevalier Gaston on 8 February 1879. Initially, this door was for the sole use of the Royal family with the public entrance facing the sea.
Under the influence of the first director, Jules Cohen (who was instrumental in bringing Adelina Patti) and the fortunate combination of Raoul Gunsbourg, the new director from 1892, and Princess Alice, the opera-loving American wife of Charles III’s successor, Albert I, the company was thrust onto the world’s opera community stage.
Gunsbourg remained for sixty years, overseeing such premiere productions as Hector Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust in 1893, and the first appearances in January 1894 of the heroic Italian tenor Francesco Tamagno in Verdi’s Otello, whose title role he had created for the opera’s premiere in Italy. Conductor Arturo Vigna served as music director of the Monte Carlo Opera from 1895–1903.
By the early years of 20th century, the Salle Garnier was to see such great performers as Nellie Melba and Enrico Caruso in La bohème and Rigoletto (in 1902), and Feodor Chaliapin in the premiere of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte (1910). This production formed part of a long association between the company and Massenet and his operas, two of which were presented there posthumously.
Apart from Massenet, composers whose works had their first performances at Monte Carlo included: Saint-Saëns (Hélène, 1904); Mascagni (Amica, 1905); and Puccini (La rondine, 1917). Indeed, since its inauguration, the theatre has hosted nearly 50 world premiere productions of operas. René Blum was retained to found the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo. The “Golden Age” of the Salle Garnier has passed, since small companies with small houses are not able to mount highly expensive productions. Nonetheless, the present day company still presents a season containing five or six operas.
The Opéra was twice transformed into a spectacular venue to host gala-dinners. The first occasion was in 1966 for the celebration of centenary of Monte-Carlo hosted by Grace Kelly and Rainier III; the second was for the royal wedding of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene.The Opéra was transformed for the third time on 27 July 2013 to host the Love Ball, a fundraising gala event organised by the Naked Heart Foundation.