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Grand Theatre de Lyon

history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1756 | first theatre opened
Erected to the design by Jacques-Germain Soufflot.
(detail)1826 | demolition

(detail)1831 | opening
larger opera house was erected by Antoine-Marie Chenavard and Jean-Marie Pollet
(detail)1993 | alteration
French architect Jean Nouvel enlarged the 1831 building by adding the large glass roof and a multi-level basement.
(detail)1921 | The unique revolving double-stage

The unique revolving double-stage developed and patented by Gustave Garnier in 1905 was installed



Designed by Soufflot, the architect of the Pantheon. Soufflot was a friend of Cochin and had travelled with him in Italy. His theatre stood on an isolated site, part of an ambitious pie of town planning, facing the Hotel de Ville. Its huge stage was surrounding by rooms for the actors and theatre staff, while the audience were provided with a long gallery for promenading, three staircases to the different gallery levels and two cafes. It must have been a sober building, for Soufflot denied himself the use of the classical orders, both within or without. The auditorium, which was an almost complete oval, had three tiers of galleries and a panelled ceiling.


It was in 1754 that the Consulate also awarded Soufflot the project for the Grand Théâtre that Lyon needed on the site of the garden located behind the Hôtel de Ville. The architect was inspired by the theatres in Parma and Milan that he had visited during his Italian escapade. The three continuous balconies of the hall were provided with Italian  style loggias, their successive terracing making the top appear wider as a reminder of ancient theatres. The three levels of the low-key façade  were topped with a wide cornice and a balustrade, with blocks supporting pairs of small cupids sculpted by Antoine Michel Perrache. His plan was innovative: for the first time in France, a theatre that was completely detached, an oval auditorium in contrast to the normal elongated auditorium and a stage that was slightly inclined towards the audience, fitted with an under floor level for machinery and very high flies! Considered as a fundamental stage in the architecture of theatres, it was the first building to reconcile the practical needs of the theatre with the desire of the audience of 2000…to be seen! It was opened in August 1756, in the presence of Soufflot, who came from Paris for the occasion, and Melchior Munet, who directed the construction. However, Soufflot’s Grand Théâtre was destroyed by a fire in 1826. It was replaced in 1831 on the same site by a theatre built by Antoine-Marie Chenavard and Jean-Marie Pollet, itself rebuilt by the architect Jean Nouvel in 1993 and became the Opéra de Lyon.




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