Théâtre du Châtelet  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Théâtre du Châtelet is a theatre and opera house in Paris, France. One of two theatres built on the site of a châtelet, a small castle or fortress, it was designed by Gabriel Davioud at the request of Baron Haussmann between 1860 and 1862. Originally built with 3,000 seats, it was named the Théâtre Impérial du Châtelet, but has undergone remodeling and name changes over the years. Currently it seats 2,500 people.

History of the theatre

The two identical theatres, with a fountain and an open plaza, the Place du Châtelet, between them, were constructed along the quays of the Seine. Their external architecture is essentially Palladian in style while each has its entrance under an arcade. At the centre of the plaza is a sphinx-endowed fountain, erected in 1808, which commemorates Napoleon's victory in Egypt. The other theatre, previously named the Sarah Bernhardt (after the French actress) and now known as the Théâtre de la Ville, offers top names in contemporary dance, innovative French theatre, and evening concerts of jazz or world music.

The Théâtre du Châtelet was originally used for drama performances but, in the twentieth century, it was used for operettas, variety and ballet performances, for classical and popular music concerts. It was also, for a time, a cinema.

Since 1906 regular seasons of opera and ballet have been presented by a variety of impresarios, as well as by visiting international companies as diverse as Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and the present-day Kirov Opera. Igor Stravinsky’s Petrouchka received its premiere in the theatre on 3 June 1911, as did Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau’s Parade on 18 May 1917. In addition, many foreign composers and conductors made appearances in the theatre, including Tchaikovsky, Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss.

Since 1979, it has been operated by the City of Paris, and, after undergoing a major restoration, re-opened under the name of the Théâtre Musical de Paris in 1980. It was acoustically re-modeled again in 1989 and reverted to the Théâtre du Châtelet name. It is currently mainly used for opera performances and concerts.

Under the direction of Stéphane Lissner for four years from 1995, the theatre received additional improvements in acoustics and sightlines.

In recent years, the theatre has become the home of the Orchestre de Paris, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and, since 1993, the Philharmonia Orchestra of London has an annual residency period.

See also

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