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(detail)1577 | opening
The first professional company that played here was the commedia dell'arte troupe, the Gelosi, in May 1577.
(detail)1660 | closure


"Near the Louvre stood the Hotel du Petit Bourbon, which contained a spacious gallery, that had been converted into a theatre, where the court was accustomed to give fetes and ballets, in which the princes and Louis XIV., when young, used to dance. The king, satisfied with Moliere, gave him this theatre; and upon the demolition of the hotel in 1660, in order to afford space for the colonnade of the Louvre, his majesty gave him the Theatre du Palais Royal, built by cardinal Richelieu, granted to his company a pension of 6000 livres, and allowed them to assume the title of troupe royale."


In:  Whittaker, G. B.: The History of Paris from the Earliest Period to the Present Day: Vol. II. London, 1825 p. 461


The first Court theatre of France, in the long gallery of the palace of the Dukes of Bourbon. A finely proportioned room with a stage at one end, it was used originally for balls and ballets, and the first professional company to play in it was the commedia dell'arte troupe, the Gelosi, in May 1577. In 1604 the famous Isabella Andreini played there for the last time, dying on the return journey to Italy. In 1645 Mazarin invited the great Italian scene painter and machinist Torelli to supervise the production of opera there, and in 1658, when the theatre was again in the possession of a commedia dell'arte troupe under Tiberio Fiorillo, the famous Scaramouche, a company under Moliere, fresh from the provinces, was allowed to share it with them. They opened on 2 Nov. 1658 with five plays by Corneille in quick succession, and not until the end of the month did Moliere put on one of his own farces, L'Etourdi, followed by Le Depit amoureux. The Petit-Bourbon saw also the first nights of Les Precieuses ridicules and Sganarelle, ou le cocu imaginaire, before it was suddenly scheduled for demolition in October 1660. Work was begun without reference to Moliere—in the full tide of his success, he found himself homeless. However, Louis XIV gave him the disused theatre in the Palais-Royal, and the Petit-Bourbon disappeared. Moliere took the boxes and fittings with him, but Vigarani, at that time Court architect and scene painter, claimed Torelli's scenery and machinery for the Salle des Machines which he was building for the King in the Tuileries. When they had been handed over, he burnt them, hoping no doubt to destroy all traces of his admired predecessor, of whom he was extremely jealous.


In: Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. The concise Oxford companion to the theatre. 1st ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.   ISBN 0-19-281102-9. p. 410



Authors: G. B Whittaker, Hartnoll Phyllis

Additional information

Images from Bapst (1893) and Mullin (1970) show the auditorium and stage of Richelieu\\\'s theatre in the Palais Cardinal, not the Petit-Bourbon.

Robert Allen - 05.08. 2019

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