Sunday, 3 May 2009

L'Ancien Théâtre

I was overawed to see this exquisitely preserved but fragile Italian renaissance theatre at the end of an exhibition  hall that we have been to many times.   We knew that it was the site of a former church and a theatre but we had no idea what was beyond the  closed doors. Veritable Magnificence!

I had my own personal tour!!  A former French physician very kindly provided me lots of information about the history of the theatre.  He worked there as a volunteer but explained that it is very hopeful that the theatre will arrive on the list of National French Monuments by next month and restoration will start.  We conversed in French and in English. He wanted to speak English and I ploughed on in French!!  Soon an American gentleman came to the discussion.  I was asking lots of questions about when it started and when it closed. We discussed the seating, the balconies, galleries, the paintings, the original fabric of the building, and how there were two theatres - one on stage and on in the audience because the people were finely dressed and used to participate with the actors on stage.  Of course when it opened Châtellerault was a rich town with the Arms  Factory and the Cutlery industry.  He showed me where the Maire would sit, below him were the Pompiers (firemen)  and on the opposite side of the stage would have sat the Sous-Prefet and below him the Police.  The theatre could also be transformed by the addition of a false floor installed above the seating ... Voila ... a dance floor!!

I collected a leaflet, declining for the moment to purchase the books and postcards. But I have just discovered this link:

Evidently the acoustics are brilliant and a 'chuchoter' can be heard distinctly.   Also there are about 50 Italian theatres in France, some of which are fully restored. 

I must go back again!

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