According to many legends, a musical phantom has lived or still does perhaps, underneath the famed Paris Opera House, the Palais Garnier.
Some of you have seen or heard the modern Phantom of the Opera musical score and play. The grandiose lyrics and notes were written by British composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber, the talented creator of the musical scores for CATS and Evita, among many others.
One thing is sure and true: there is water under the opera. The lake even has fish in it. The natural sheet of water was already there when construction began on the massive architectural design.
Architect Garnier was surprised in 1862 to find the body of water at the 5th level below the ground when he was laying the foundations of the gigantic building.
He tried to master the swampy environment with various methods of drainage, but none worked well enough for safely support a large edifice. He then resorted to keeping the water by enclosing it inside a tight and secure concrete basin wall.
The Paris Opera House lies over a three-acre site with the vast labyrinth standing at 17 stories high. The actual auditorium stage occupies less than one-fifth of the total space.
The stables for the white in-house horses used in many productions still exist. The lake underneath the building acts as ballast, carrying the weight of the stage, seven levels above.
Dancing on Water!
Located 33 feet directly under the main stage of the opera, and serving as a water reserve for the majestic building, the reservoir is what the fire brigades would use in case of another fire.
The fire department also uses the pool to train its force in diving exercises. Through a labyrinth of vaulted rooms, regular inspections and maintenance take care of the historic reservoir, with crews going around the lake by boat!
Scary or Sad.
The true facts recall how, in October 1873, inside the opera house still in construction, a young and talented pianist was disfigured by a stage fire, while his ballerina fiancée was killed by the fierce incident.
Left inconsolable, the story says that Ernest, the young man, found refuge in the underbelly of the unfinished building, where he stayed until the end of his days. His body was never recovered.
Feeding on the tales, and adding his own interpretation of many weird and true happenstances inside the theater, author Gaston Leroux wrote in 1910 the best-seller book "Le Fantôme de l'Opéra".
In his story, a young and talented singer, Christine, is tutored by a mysterious man with a mask - was it Ernest, or possibly the phantom?
The legend then left Paris to tour the world in the form of multiple plays, films, TV shows, stage musicals, and documentaries. The spin-off continues today.
Always seated in the private balcony box number 5, the phantom was a fan of every representation of the opera house. To this day, his seat stays empty, forever reserved to its illusion host.
Watch the short video showing the reservoir and its tiny entrance staircase.
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