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Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin

Oscar de la Chardonnière

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Important events

(detail)1781 | opening
This theatre arose on its present site in 1781 to the design by Nicolas Lenoir, after the burning of the Opera, and housed the company of the latter until 1794. It was then used for various purposes and did not open again as a theatre until 1810, after which it was used exclusively for strong drama and spectacular works.
(detail)1871 | conflagration
The building was destroyed by fire in 1871, but was rebuilt on part of the same site from the original plans.
(detail)1873 | opening
The building was designed by the architect Oscar de la Chardonnière.



1st theatre:

"The principal front is ninety-six feet in length by fifty-four in height, exclusive of the attic, which is twelve feet high. The basement is decorated with eight cariatides, placed as pilasters on the sides of the three doors. Eight coupled Ionic columns rest upon the basement, and support a cornice surmounted by a bas-relief, by Bocquet, representing the triumph of the Arts. Between the columns were formerly the busts of Quinault, Rameau, Lulli, and Gluck. Over three windows corresponding with the doors are bas-reliefs. The whole of this decoration is enclosed in a slight rectangular recess, and the projecting mass of the building is surmounted by an entablature with fluted consoles.
The original decoration of the interior of the house was of a military character. The columns which supported the boxes represented bundles of pikes surmounted by gilt helmets with feathers, and the upper boxes displayed eagles grasping standards, and cocks from whose wings military sashes were suspended. .The whole of this embellishment was in relief, and richly gilt. The decoration of the house, in 1802, executed by Persico, an Italian, was of a very inferior character.
The present disposition and embellishment of the theatre are after the designs of M. Debret. The house forms a circle to which the stage is tangent. Its diameter is fifty feet between the fronts of the first tier of boxes, and its height forty-seven feet. It contains four tiers of boxes. A row of octagonal columns, which are apparent only in the two upper tiers, support the cornice, above which a few boxes are contrived on the sides. The first tier of boxes is decorated with draperies and garlands enriched with gold; the three others display arabesques with cameos. The ceiling is ornamented with garlands and arabesques in gold. Four columns, which adorn the stage boxes, support the arch of the proscenium : these boxes are enriched with coloured birds and griffons. The curtain is blue with a deep white fringe, and is ornamented with garlands, griffons, etc., in gold.
Although built almost entirely of wood and plaster, this theatre presents an agreeable appearance; but it has several defects. It has no portico, but in its stead a miserable awning has been erected, which hides the cariatides, and beneath which carriages cannot enter. It has no vestibule. The saloon is very small. The manager's rooms and dressing-rooms are in an adjoining house. It has only one entrance, which, opening upon the boulevard near a steep declivity, renders the meeting of carriages extremely dangerous. On the other hand, it contains ample space below the stage for the apparatus essential to melodramas, and is well furnished with decorations and machinery."



In:  Whittaker, G. B.: The History of Paris from the Earliest Period to the Present Day: Vol. II. London, 1825 p. 510- 512




Author: G. B Whittaker

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