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National Opera of Bordeaux

Victor Louis

alias Opéra National de Bordeaux, Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)7.4.1780 | opening
Opened with a performance of l'Athalie by Jean Racine.




The Grand Theatre in Bordeaux was designed by architect Victor Louis and inaugurated on 7th April of 1780. Its façade (composed of a portico with 12 Corinthian columns), its impressive vestibule, its numerous statues testify about its Neoclassical aesthetics. Its monumental staircase has inspired Charles Garnier to realize those at the Paris Opera.

The theatre hall is in colors of royalty: blue, white and golden. Underneath the stage, there is still preserved machinery from the 18th century. Being a seat of  the National Opera of  Bordeaux directed by Marc Minkowski, the Grand Theatre offers a vast drama, dance and music program to public every season.


Opéra National de Bordeaux – 

Place de la Comédie
BP 90095
33025 Bordeaux Cedex


Visits: Wednesday and Thursday from 14.30 to 18.30 (except holidays)

Obligatory reservation at 05 56 00 85 95 or directly via www.operabordeaux.com


For Groups: Tourist office of the city of Bordeaux or 05 56 00 66 00 or otb@bordeaux-tourisme.com.










Victor Louis was a brilliant and interesting man, a friend of Beaumarchais and Mme Geoffrin, who had studied at Rome, built a palace in Warsaw and made additions (now regretted) to Chartres Cathedral, before returning to Bordeaux in 1772. The story of his long and acrimonious dealings with the city council during the next eight years reminds one strongly of the building of Blenheim. Like Vanbrugh, he was forced to relinquish control before the building was finished and departed to Paris embittered and angry. A request for a pension was turned down with the excuse that he had already involved the city in unnecessary expense with his 'peristyles and painted ceilings'. For the facade, in fact, Louis had adopted the simplest and grandest of all motifs, a long colonnade of twelve tall Corinthian columns supporting a flat entablature. Originally the ground sloped up so that carriages could drive inside this colonnade. It is continued round the side elevations as a pilaster order. Upon entering, one finds oneself in a low vestibule supported on Doric columns, which leads to the grand staircase hall —one of Louis' boldest ideas, the importation into a theatre of a feature hitherto mainly characteristic of palaces. The hall itself rises to the whole height of the building and is covered by an oblong domical vault ending in a skylight. To left and right the elevation consists of an arched, rusticated ground storey and a gallery of Ionic columns. In the centre the staircase ascends until it meets the far wall where a door flanked by caryatids leads into the Grande Sails, the auditorium; then it divides left and right and goes up to the gallery. Above the cornice, lunettes cut into the panels of the vault reveal a view of small domes over the galleries. Over the low vestibule, just as at Soufflot's Lyons theatre, is an oval concert hall. The Grande Salle itself looks to Italy rather than to Versailles or Besancon, but its originality is immediately apparent. Louis rests his domed ceiling on four main supports forming a square. Two of them coincide with the sides of the proscenium arch; the other two are giant Ionic columns which divide the auditorium into three segments. These segments are articulated by further Ionic columns, holding three rows of 'boxes, so that at first sight they form a continuous colonnade, i.e. the motif of Caserta. But above the cornice the three segments become galleries under wide segmental arches. The plinth of the whole colonnade is a solid rusticated wall. The stage is framed by the usual paired columns holding boxes. Patte called this 'the most magnificent of our modern theatres'.


In: Tidworth, Simon : Theatres: An Illustrated History. London 1973. p. 112 - 114




Author: Simon Tidworth

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