I’ve just seen an opera from inside a wedding cake. Well, it’s an understandable mistake. France’s Troisième République Palais Garnier confection of an opera house, commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III in 1860, but not completed until 1875 when Napoleon was long gone, truly would look more at home in the window of one of the city’s Maîtres Confiseur-Chocolatière than at the end of Haussmann’s Avenue de l’Opera.
Napoleon devolved decisions about the building to Empress Eugenie, who was craftily blindsided by the Minister of Works, Count Alexandre Colonna-Walewski. He was determined to thwart her fuddy-duddy favourite, Violet de Duc, the architect responsible for repairing much of the damage done to the fabric of Paris during the French Revolution and famous for his comment on seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa: “It was extremely disagreeable to see”, he wrote, “it would have been infinitely better if it had been straight”.