The Napoleon III or Second Empire style

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Second Empire style, also known as the Napoleon III style, was a highly eclectic style of architecture and decorative arts, which used elements of many different historical styles, and also made innovative use of modern materials, such as iron frameworks and glass skylights.

The Napoleon III or Second Empire style

Second Empire style, also known as the Napoleon III style, was a highly eclectic style of architecture and decorative arts, which used elements of many different historical styles, and also made innovative use of modern materials, such as iron frameworks and glass skylights. It flourished during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III in France (1852–1871) and had an important influence on architecture and decoration in the rest of Europe and the United States. Major examples of the style include the Opéra Garnier (1862–1871) in Paris by Charles Garnier

The Napoleon III or Second Empire style took its inspiration from several different periods and styles, which were often combined together in the same building or interior. The interior of the Opéra Garnier by Charles Garnier combined architectural elements of the French Renaissance, Palladian architecture, and French Baroque, and managed to give it coherence and harmony. The Lions Gate of the Louvre Palace by Hector Lefuel is a Louis-Napoléon version of French Renaissance architecture; few visitors to the Louvre realize it is a 19th-century addition to the building.

Another characteristic of Napoleon III style is the adaptation of the design of the building to its function and the characteristics of the material used. Examples include the Gare du Nord railway station by Jacques Ignace Hittorff, the Church of Saint Augustin by Victor Baltard, and particularly the iron-framed structures of the market of Les Halles and the reading room of the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris, both also by Victor Baltard.[2

 

Opera, Theater and Amusement

By the end of the Second Empire, Paris had 41 theaters that offered entertainment for every possible taste: from grand opera and ballet to dramas, melodramas, operettas, vaudeville, farces, parodies, and more. Their success was in part a result of the new railroads, which brought thousands of spectators from the French provinces and abroad. A popular drama that would have had a run of fifteen performances for a purely Parisian audience could now run for 150 performances with new audiences every night. Of these theaters, five had official status and received substantial subsidies from the Imperial treasury: the Opéra (800,000 francs a year); the Comédie-Francaise (240,000 francs); the Opéra-Comique (140,000 francs); the Odéon (60,000 francs), and the Théâtre Lyrique (100,000 francs).[59]

 

The Paris Opera

It was the main opera house in Paris before the completion of the Palais Garnier in 1875.

At the top of the hierarchy of Paris theaters was the Théâtre Impérial de l'Opéra (Imperial Opera Theater). The first stone of the new Paris opera house, designed by Charles Garnier, was laid in July 1862, but flooding of the basement caused the construction to proceed very slowly. Garnier himself had his office on the site to oversee every detail. As the building rose, it was covered with a large shed so that the sculptors and artists could create the elaborate exterior decoration. The shed was taken off on 15 August 1867, in time for the Paris Universal Exposition. Visitors and Parisians could see the building's glorious new exterior, but the inside was not finished until 1875, after the fall of the Empire in 1870. Opéra performances were held in the Salle Le Peletier, the theater of the Académie Royale de Musique, on the Rue Le Peletier.

Operetta was a speciality of the Second Empire, and its master was the German-born composer and conductor Jacques Offenbach. He composed more than a hundred operettas for the Paris stage, including Orphée aux enfers (1858), La Belle Hélène (1864), La Vie parisienne (1866), and La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (1867). His operettas were performed with great success at the Théâtre des Variétés and the Theatre des Bouffes-Parisiens, and he was given French citizenship and awarded the Legion of Honour by Napoleon III. The soprano Hortense Schneider was the star of his most famous operettas and was one of the most popular actresses on the stages of the Second Empire. One Paris operetta melody by Offenbach, Couplets des deux Hommes d'Armes, sung by two policemen in the operetta Geneviève de Brabant (1868), won fame in an entirely different context: it became the melody of the Marine's Hymn, the song of the United States Marine Corps, in 1918.

 

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