The competition for the new Opera house launched by Napoleon III in 1860 has become legendary. For the first time in nearly twenty years, the State decided to organise a competitive procedure on the advice of Viollet-le-Duc. The lucky winner, after two rounds of voting, was an obscure architect called Charles Garnier. The aim of the competition, regarded as being "in the public interest", was to replace the opera house in rue Peletier, which was considered cramped and unsafe because of inadequate exits and street access. The contest attracted 171 entries! The project that Alphonse Nicolas Crépinet presented in collaboration with Alphonse Botrel came second and the architect signed it when it was returned to him, to make it into a reference drawing.
The critics found the drawing austere, perhaps because it was too harmonious. Indeed, the public first sees a convex building surrounded by a double row of elegant galleries and enters it through a flat fore-part topped by a double arched pediment. The second part of the building, which is rectangular to house the stage and the auditorium, is clearly visible in the perspective drawing, while the third part, used for theatre business but scarcely visible in the drawing, is again curved and smaller. The references are therefore clearly taken from classical antiquity (columns, arcades, pediment) and Italian architecture (loggias, openings crowned with a pediment, sculptured groups). Crépinet had entered the contest for the tomb of Napoleon I the previous year; he later worked on a project for the comic opera house.