The Grand Theatre of Bordeaux

The Grand Theatre of Bordeaux, commanded by Marshal de Richelieu, governor of Guyenne, was built by architect Victor Louis, opened on April 7, 1780. An historic monument, the neo-classical building is reminiscent of ancient times.  Its peristyle structure is eighty-eight meters by forty-seven meters, and is part of urban Bordeaux’s rich legacy of the Enlightenment. The building houses an auditorium with one thousand seats, and is a perfect example of Italian theatre.

The first permanent theatres, home of the Italian rooms, appeared in most cities in the eighteenth century, often at the initiative of the intendant of the province. At Bordeaux, the aldermen had a theatre built in the gardens of the old city hall in 1738, which was located near the Grosse Cloche according to the plans of the architect of the city, Montegut. This theatre had a capacity of 1,500 seats; it was destroyed by fire during the night of December 28 to 29, 1755.

Pending the necessary reconstruction of a hypothetical city hall that would incorporate a new auditorium, a theatre was built in 1760 at the street entrance of the rope factory near the Place Dauphine. Performers included not only the permanent troupe founded in 1761 by Marshal de Richelieu, but also passing troupes.  They presented comedies, tragedies and operas. The famous actor Le Kain came to play several times in the hall of the Corderie, where he had great success.

Theatre-loving Bordelais, however, wished to see a theatre built that was worthy of the greatness of their new city, like the theatres in Lyon and Montpellier.

The Grand Theatre was eventually built between 1773 and 1780 on the glacis of the Trumpet Castle, at the site of the Gallo-Roman forum where the temple of the Pillars of Guardianship (named after the goddess Tutela, protector of the city) stood.  At one point, the construction stopped under the will of the King, however Louis managed to convince him resume the work.

After more than 200 years of various uses and successive transformations of the environment of its rooms, at its last restoration in 1991 the interior is found to be its original blue and gold with white marble.   The view of the statues of the muses was enhanced with the development of the Place de la Comedie.

The Grand Theatre is now the headquarters of the Opera National de Bordeaux, who program the opera season and the performances of the Ballet de l’Opera. The theatre also hosts symphony concerts by the Orchestra National Bordeaux Aquitaine, pending the future delivery of the Bordeaux Auditorium, which was planned for 2008.