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Royal Opera of Versailles

Ange-Jacques Gabriel

alias l´Opéra Royal
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)60. 's 18. century | construction
Built 1769-1770 as "Opéra Royal" by Ange-Jacques Gabriel for King Louis XV, based on an existing 17th century building by François Mansart.
(detail)16.5.1770 | opening
the Opéra was opened with Lully's "Persée" in celebration of the marriage of the dauphin .
(detail)1789 | closure
Closed during the French Revolution.
(detail)1837 | reopening
Revived by King Louis-Philippe, re-decoration of the auditorium. Re-opened with Molière's "Le Misanthrope".
(detail)1871 | alteration
It was converted into a hall for parliament meetings by Edmond de Joly.
(detail)50. 's 20. century | Renovation
The theatre was renovated to the original design from 1770 between 1952 -55. Re-opened on 9th April of 1957 with Act II of the Rameau's "Les Indes Galantes".



Although there was a good deal of theatrical entertainment at Versailles under Louis XIV, there was no permanent theatre there, and plays were given on temporary stages erected indoors or in the gardens. It was not until 1768 that Louis XV instructed his chief architect, ANGE-JACQUES GABRIEL (1698-1782), to build a theatre in the north whig of the chateau. Oval in design, and not rectangular, as earlier French theatres were, it was built of wood, much of it painted to resemble marble. The stage, almost as large as that of the Paris Opera, was well supplied with machinery, and the floor of the auditorium could be raised to stage level to form a large room for balls and banquets. Lighting was provided by crystal chandeliers. The theatre was first used on 16 May 1770 for a banquet in honour of the marriage of the future Louis XVI to Marie-Antoinette. The first plays to be given there were Racine's Athalie on 23 May, with Mile Clairon (q.v.) in the title-role, and on 20 June Voltaire's Tancrede. During the Revolution the theatre served the meeting place of the Versailles as e as e branch of the Jacobins. When m Louis-Philippe made Versailles a museum of French military history, the opening ceremony was followed on 10 June by a gala performance of Moliere's Le Misanthrope. The theatre was then used occasionally for concerts and on 18 Aug. 1855 for a banquet in honour of Queen Victoria. In 1871 it was taken over by the Assembly, who met there during the Commune. A floor was laid over the pit, and everything above it was painted brown. This fortunately preserved the decorations below, and when in 1952 restoration began on the chateau, the theatre too was restored to its original colours of dark blue, pale blue, and gold. It was even found possible to replace the original material on the seats, made by the firm which had supplied it in 1768. The restoration was completed in time for an official visit by Queen Elizabeth II of England on 9 Apr. 1957, when a theatrical and musical entertainment was given. The theatre is still occasionally used for concerts, operas, and plays.


In: Hartnoll, Phyllis, ed. The concise Oxford companion to the theatre. 1st ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.   ISBN 0-19-281102-9. p. 576





Author: Hartnoll Phyllis

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