In 1963 artist Marc Chagall was commissioned by the French Minister of Culture to repaint the Paris Opera House ceiling. The artist choice was controversial because, although a French nationalized citizen, Chagall was a Russian Jew, and a modern artist, both of which many traditional French objected to.
The work pays tribute to the composers Mozart, Wagner, Mussorgsky, Berlioz and Ravel, as well as famous actors and dancers. In his speech to the audience at its unveiling, Chagall described the theme of his work:
"Up there in my painting I wanted to reflect, like a mirror in a bouquet, the dreams and creations of the singers and musicians, to recall the movement of the colourfully attired audience below, and to honour the great opera and ballet composers... Now I offer this work as a gift of gratitude to France and her École de Paris, without which there would be no colour and no freedom."
Despite the objections, after the ceiling was revealed, it was declared a great contribution to French culture. Chagall was 77 when he painted ceiling.
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The Gorgeous Paris Opera House
L'Opéra National de Paris is the primary opera house in Paris and it is a gem. It was founded in 1861 and has been kept in pristine condition. Although over 300 performances take place per year, you don't need to actually attend an opera to enjoy this magnificent building. There are guided and unguided tours nearly every day, and the many floors of gorgeous rooms and displays can keep you occupied for hours. There is also a very special production of honey that is done on the roof!