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Gaston Leroux: The Phantom of the Opera
28. 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.
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