Today I would like to mention four theaters I really appreciate in Paris. Even if you don’t speak perfect French, attending a play in a foreign language is always a nice experience. You can put the magic you wish in it. Moreover, it is a nice opportunity to discover very interesting buildings from the inside. Here is a small selection.
Between 1978 and 1983, Le Palace was one of the places to be in Paris and a melting pot of fashion, music, Parisian chic and underground culture. It opened its doors, to be precise, on the 1st of March 1978. To give you an idea of the style, its waiters were decked out in red and gold suits designed by Thierry Mugler and the owner, Fabrice Emaer, launched the venue with a memorable show by Grace Jones. Very soon Le Palace became the capital’s most popular discotheque and boasted a very desirable clientele. It became famous for its fabulous theme nights. The fashion designers Kenzo, Karl Lagerfeld, Claude Montana, and Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, to name but a few, chose the venue for their shows and parties and the pop star Prince gave his first concert there. Then, in 1980, Fabrice Emaer opened a private restaurant/discotheque called Le Privilège underneath Le Palace. It was reserved for the jet set and the princes and princesses of the night who considered that the social diversity of Le Palace was too much of a break with tradition. The decoration was entrusted to the great painter Gérard Garouste and the furniture design to his wife, Elisabeth Garouste. In this relaxed but fantastically snobbish environment one could rub shoulders with the likes of Karl Lagerfeld, Roland Barthes, Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol, Frédéric Mitterrand, Andrée Putman, Jean-Paul Goude, Kenzo, Yves Saint-Laurent, Alice Sapritch, Thierry Le Luron, Yves Mourousi and countless other ‘beautiful people’. But Fabrice Emaer fell ill. The glitz of Le Palace began to wane and it would close for the first time in 1982. And when Fabrice Emaer died in 1983, struck down by kidney cancer, it was the end of a magnificent era of Parisian nightlife! Meanwhile, Le Privilège has once again reopened its doors underneath the theatre.
In 2009 the venue was reconverted back to its original vocation of a theatre. After colossal renovation works, two Belgians of Albanian origin, the Vardar brothers, tried to bring this emblematic venue back to life despite the reigning climate of general indifference. Though the line-up is sometimes a bit weak, this is a place you should try for its history and its magnificent 970-seats room.
The Caveau de La République
This small comedy club is located in Paris’ 3rd arrondissement, next to the Place de la République, from which it takes its name. With a capacity of 450, it is nevertheless a sizeable club. Indeed, more than a century after its opening (in 1901) and with an annual audience of 55,000 spectators, the club no longer has anything to prove.
Performers such as Enrico Macias, Charles Aznavour, Sim, Patrick Sébastien, Stéphane Guillon, Laurent Ruquier and even Christophe Alévèque have all contributed towards the club’s reputation. This list is far from exhaustive. I could also add Garcimore, Laurent Gerra or even Gaspard Proust, the star of the film « L’amour dure 3 ans » (Love lasts three years) by Frédéric Beigbeder.
Basically, as you can see, the Caveau de la République could be likened to a talent spotter!
Every evening, five or six comedians perform in turn, producing an explosive mixture of satire, politics and above all, laughter.
The Théâtre des Mathurins
Inaugurated in 1898, this is a legendary theatre which was successively known as ‘Théâtre Monsieur’, ‘Théâtre des Mathurins nouveaux’ and ‘Théâtre de Sacha Guitry’. Concerning the latter, it was in 1905, that this master of irony, then just 20-years old, made his first stage appearance in the comedy ‘Nono’. After that, Georges and Ludmilla Pitoëff left a very strong imprint on this theatre. Then, several other great directors followed on from each other, each putting the emphasis on different theatre styles, from boulevard comedies to great international plays and contemporary creations. The theatre billed, in particular, the works of Oscar Wilde, Jean-Paul Sartre and Marguerite Duras and actors including Gérard Philipe, Michel Auclair and Maria Casarès performed on this legendary Parisian stage.
But let’s go back even further… at the risk of sounding like an encyclopaedia, I can’t resist the temptation to tell you that the Théâtre des Mathurins owes its name to a little street that existed back in the Middle Ages. In the 13th century it led to a farm belonging to the Mathurin monks. Later, after Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were buried in the cemetery next to the future Rue des Mathurins, its owner offered the land to the royal family. In return, Louis XVIII gave his permission to the grandson of this benevolent owner to manage the theatres outside of the inner circle of Paris… hence the Théâtre des Mathurins! This just goes to show that some cemeteries lead to fortune provided that you come back from them… More recently, this theatre with 386 seats benefitted from major renovation works, especially concerning the stage and machinery.
The Comédie française
I am sure you were expecting it; I could not have spoken of theaters in Paris without mentioning the most famous one. Built 330 years ago, the Comedy was first ruled by Molière and its comedians. Its motto was “Simul et Singulis” which means to be together and to be oneself.
The French comedy, sometimes called the Theatre French, or even the “Molière House,” is not only one of the oldest theaters in the world, but also probably one of those whose influence is the greatest. As national theater, its role is to ensure regular representation of the main parts of the classical repertoire. It also plays some works by contemporary playwrights (among the most remarkable) and has two other theaters opened to this repertoire: “Le Theatre du Vieux-Colombier” (sixth district) and Studio Theatre (Carrousel du Louvre gallery). Since 1812, the deputy head has under its authority some 280 people, 60 actors (30 members, 30 residents) and 220 technical staff (department heads, employees, artisans, laborers tray). He chairs the Administrative Committee consisting of six members plus two alternates, and the reading committee, which includes six holders of the Administration Committee and four persons appointed by the Minister of State for Cultural Affairs. The most famous French plays are performed in la Comédie with remarkable actors. You should not be disappointed. For the bravest, if you arrive in La Comédie one hour before the show, you might have a chance to buy a 5 euros tickets (a nice opportunity!).
Didier Moinel Delalande is a Director at Hotel Mathurin.
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