Historical chronicle

A little history at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées

a unique hiSTory

Today, the Théâtre is without doubt one of the most beautiful performance venues in Paris. However Gabriel Astruc’s initial project foresaw the building of a Philharmonic Palace containing three stages of different dimensions at the Rond-Point des Champs-Élysées.

At the end of 1908, the project was turned down and Gabriel Astruc proposed a new site on Avenue Montaigne, in the spot where the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées emerged in 1913; it opened there on 31 March. The building is remarkable for having been designed by a group of artists: architects Henry Van de Velde, Auguste Perret, the painter and sculpter Antoine Bourdelle, the painter Maurice Denis, and the cristal maker René Lalique amongst others. It was the first construction to be made entirely out of reinforced concrete.

The Théâtre is a jewel of twentieth century French architecture; in 1957 it became one of the first modern edifices to become a listed building, figuring on the register of the Monuments Historiques. In 1970, the Caisse des Dépôts acquired the theatre and became the main patron of the Concert Hall. It was the Caisse des Dépôts that undertook a complete renovation of the building in 1985, including the Concert Hall and the Comédie; they also decided on the construction of a panoramic restaurant, the “Maison Blanche”, on the roof of the Théâtre.

A showcase for the performings arts

“I brought the wandering knights to Paris from the four cornersof the world.”
This was what Gabriel Astruc, the first director of the Theatre, had to say about his programme. His successors have always been just as ambitious. Astruc wanted Paris to have a concert hall to rival those of its European neighbours. From the beginning the Theatre was home to very diverse art forms - opera, ballet, symphony concerts and recitals.

The first season gave the Parisian public an opportunity to see works such as Benvenuto Cellini by Berlioz, Freischütz by Weber, as well as concerts with works by Debussy, Dukas, Indy, Fauré and Saint-Saëns conducted by the composers themselves. Later in May of that year, Gabriel Astruc scheduled the Premiere of The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky with choreography by de Nijinski ; it caused a scandal.

The artistic adventure of the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées has been illuminated throughout the one hundred years of its existence by the presence of prestigious artists in the areas of music, opera and dance. The list is long, too long to mention everyone, however among those who graced its stage in the past and the present are the conductors Karl Böhm, Leonard Bernstein, William Christie, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Valery Gergiev, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, D.E. Inghelbrecht, René Jacobs, Mariss Jansons, Herbert von Karajan, Sir Simon Rattle, Lorin Maazel, Kurt Masur, Zubin Mehta, Marc Minkowski, Charles Munch, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Georges Prêtre, Sir Georg Solti, Arturo Toscanini, Bruno Walte, amongst others, directing major French and foreign orchestras ; singers like Roberto Alagna, Cecilia Bartoli, Maria Callas, Natalie Dessay, Juan Diego Florez, Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann, Philippe Jaroussky, Jessye Norman, Luciano Pavarotti, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Rolando Villazo, and instrumentalists like Argerich, Arrau, Brendel, Ciccolini, Grimaud, Horowitz, Kissin, A.-S. Mutter, Pollini, Rostropovitch, Rubinstein, Serkin, Sokolov, Stern, Tharaud, Vengerov, Volodos, who are amongst the most admired and respected artists of the past one hundred years.

 

 

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