If you have seen the original Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney (Senior), the silent version, you can never forget the lower depths of the Paris Opera house.
For many years I believed that was all just Hollywood imagination at work – but the depths, the basements – and even the lake – or something like a lake exist – and finally I’ve met someone who’s actually seen it.
That would be Michel Colson, the photographer – you may have already met through past posts and his own exceptional site: www.Spirit-of-Paris.com which is dedicated to showing you his unique vision of his ‘village’, his Paris.
In an e-mail correspondence I told Michel that i remembered reading something about the lake – and that on occasion visitors had been allowed to accompany the firemen to see this unusual part of Paris’s ‘underworld’.
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Here is what Michel replied:
“It’s amazing, that you’re talking about the lake of the Opera. I’ve
been there before with the fireman, the divers team exactly.
Indeed, it’s not a cave or a river as in the book, the phantom of the
Opera, there is only a very large cellar, flooded with water for two
reasons. First it stabilizes the ground (don’t ask me why), second it’
a large reservoir in case of fire. There are big red pumps ready to
throw this water, if a fire happens.
I had the opportunity to visit the Opera from the very top to the very low.
It was such an terrific experience. There are hives on the roof. The
honey is sold for charity business somewhere. And in this “lake”, the
firemen of the Opera feed some trouts.”
This is a pretty extraordinary view of Paris – that most of us will never see – but knowing it’s real and not Hollywood – is almost as good as being there!