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World music

January 2018

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Historical Landmarks...

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, the Châtelet was a fortified castle, which later became the seat of the Paris viscountcy’s civil and criminal jurisdiction.

In 1802, all the buildings were demolished with the exception of the watch turret.

Under Napoleon I the square was levelled and enlarged.

In 1851 the Châtelet district like most of Paris was redesigned by Haussmann and its architecture radically altered. As a result large thoroughfares cut across the city with imposing buildings erected along them.

In 1860, architect Gabriel Davioud , under a commission by Baron Haussmann, built two similarly styled theatre houses on both sides of the Châtelet square and the Palm tree column.
Davioud also designed the former Trocadéro building; the present Trocadéro premises’ left wing houses the Théâtre de Chaillot.

In 1862, one of theatres on the Châtelet square was renamed Théâtre Lyrique, as it replaced its namesake on the Boulevard du Temple when the latter was razed to the ground according to Haussman’s planning. The house is situated on the former Rue de la Vieille Lanterne. This is where the poet Gérard de Nerval hanged himself in 1855 right above a manhole grid which was to be the exact spot of the theatre’s former prompt-box.

The building was burnt down during the Paris Commune (in 1871) and was rebuilt in 1874 under the aegis of the Paris city council. It was named the Théâtre Historique in 1875 and then the Théâtre des Nations in 1879. The Opéra Comique Company settled there in 1887.

In December 1898, Sarah Bernhardt, the illustrious tragedienne, began heading the theatre, which she was to conduct with panache for 25 years. She gave her name to the theater.

During the war, the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt was named Théâtre de la Cité ; Charles Dullin is the director. In 1943, Jean-Paul Sartre's first play, Les Mouches, was created there.

After the war, it was once again named Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt, A.M. Julien was the new director, and welcomed from 1947 to 1957 the Théâtre des Nations wich hosted successively Brecht’s Berliner Ensemble, L. Visconti, The Bejing Opera, Giorgio Strehler and the Piccolo Teatro di Milano and many others.

By the end of the 1960’s, the building was in need of radical restoration. The inside was completely hollowed out and only walls, roof and façade were kept. The new amphitheatre-shaped auditorium was intended to meet the requirements of contemporary scenography. Architect Jean Perrotet interior decorators Fabre and Tribel, together with scenographer René Allio (who was later to complete many cultural venues –the Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris, among others) designed a thousand seat auditorium in tiers. Those tiers were built in a single flight without any pillar support, above the foyer. The design was to be frequently imitated worldwide.

The Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt became the Théâtre de la Ville in December 1968 when it reopened.
Gabriel Davioud’s façade was listed as a Heritage Monument in 1990.

The Théâtre de la Ville: “Art in its diverse theatrical, choreographic and musical guises”
Jean Mercure

1968 Jean Mercure inspirer-director

It all started in 1968. Actor and stage director Jean Mercure based his Théâtre de la Ville project on a revolutionary idea, emulated by many since then: a multidisciplinary programme planning associating dance and drama, but also music and music from the world, mime, stand up comedy or circus, with two performance schedules –18:30 and 20:30. Mercure promoted a policy of creations, conceiving the theatre as a public service with low rates –among the cheapest in Paris– for the largest possible spectrum of spectators. This went with a variety of ticket season and membership schemes. Until 1985, Jean Mercure remained, in his own words, the “inspirer-director” of the artistic institution subsidized only by the Paris City Council.

1985 Director Gérard Violette

Gérard Violette, Mercure’s general administrator from the start, succeeded him. A staunch defender of the founding principles, Violette gave dance and music from the world an unprecedented impulse and raised dramatically the number of productions and performances, with an average of 100 programmes per year, about 40 of which were dedicated to contemporary ballet. He remained constantly faithful to the artists he had brought to the fore, thus helping to unfold the superb artistic careers of Pina Bausch, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, Alain Platel, Shankai Juku, among others. Nonetheless, Violette never stopped uncovering new talents: Peeping Tom, Ea Sola, François Verret, Jérôme Bel, etc.

1996 Inauguration of the Théâtre des Abbesses

In 1996, the Théâtre de la Ville finally obtained its second house: a new 400-seat theatre, les Abbesses, a building situated on the Montmartre hill. This extended the potential for a wider, still better targeted artistic policy.

2008 Director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota
A theatre opening onto the world

Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota has now succeeded Gérard Violette. He intends to maintain and amplify the exceptional opening of the Théâtre de la Ville to the world and to the arts, therefore starting a project of productions and poetry in foreign languages, heading an Artistic Ensemble within the Théâtre de la Ville and associating two living authors. He offers programmes for children, addresses the issue of different generations and the transmission of knowledge between them (inviting great masters along with young artists). He also plans to promote the possible intersections between the different arts.
Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, Director Biography

An impressive number of internationally acclaimed artists have been part of the Théâtre de la Ville’s history


Peter Brook, Benno Besson, Peter Stein, Lucian Pintilié, Matthias Langhoff, Bob Wilson... Among French directors, Patrice Chéreau and also Jean-Pierre Vincent, Georges Lavaudant, Gildas Bourdet, Jacques Nichet, Alain Françon, André Engel and of course Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota (who came for the first time in 1999 with Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost). 


The Théâtre de la Ville can pride itself in co-producing the works of all the choreographers who made or are making the history of contemporary ballet: Pina Bausch, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Merce Cunningham, Shankai Juku, Alain Platel, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui… and in earlier times: Alwin Nikolais, Maurice Béjart, Carolyn Carlson, Mats Ek, Jiri Kylian, John Neumeier and so many others. 


Mythical stars: Arturo Michelangeli, Claudio Arrau, Gustav Leonhardt, Michel Portal, Gidon Kremer, Isaac Stern, Janos Starker, Gyorgy Sebök, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Teresa Berganza, René Jacob, Youri Bashmet…
Today’s stars: Andreas Scholl, Andreas Staier, Marc Coppey, Jean- Guihen Queyras, Café Zimmermann, Alexandre Tharaud, Graf Mourja, Fabio Biondi…., who made their débuts at the Théâtre de la Ville
Tomorrow’s stars: Plamena Mangova, Alena Baeva, Gli Incogniti… Not to mention les Glen Branca, Kronos Quartet, Bang on a Can, etc.

Music from the world

The indisputed masters of the great vocal and instrumental traditions: griots from Mali, qawwali from Pakistan, mugham from Azerbaidjan, Iraki maqâm, Iranian radif, poetry by the great Sufi mystics, chaâbi from Algiers, maloya from Réunion, diphonic singing from the steppes of Central Asia, khyal singing, dhrupad et carnatic songs from Northern and Southern India…
One should not forget all the major traditions of India’s classical dance (barhata natyam, odissi, katak…)
The emblematic singers  from abroad who are part of their country’s cultural history: Taos Amrouche, Amalia Rodriguez, José Afonso, Mercedes Sosa, the Cuarteto Cedron, Atahualpa Yupanqui, Lluis Llach….
Singers and musicians who made their début on a major Parisian stage such as Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour, Mory Kante, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, I Muvrini, Cesaria Evora, Paolo Conte …

  • Jazz: Joachim Kühn, Michel Portal, John Hendricks, Stéphane Grappelli, Golden Gate Quartet, Claude Bolling…  
  • Chanson française: Juliette Greco, Charles Trenet, Guy Béart, Claude Nougaro, Bernard Lavilliers, Michel Jonasz, Renaud , Maurane, Juliette…
  • Mime: Marcel Marceau
  • Stand up comedy: Raymond Devos, Sol…
  • Artists indefinable : Philippe Genty, the Mummenschanz… and, of late, the extraordinary James Thierrée

The Théâtre de la Ville today…

Artistic project
Associated Artists
A theater open to the world
The 2009-2010 season


Théâtre de la Ville
directeur Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota
16 quai de Gesvres 75180 Paris Cedex 04
2 place du Châtelet 75004 Paris
tél. adm. 01 48 87 54 42

9220 Association déclarée
identifiant SIREN 775 661 721
identifiant SIRET du siège 775 661 721 00024

entrepreneur de spectacles:
Licence 1 : 1-1051016
Licence 2 : 2-1051017
Licence 3 : 3-1051015
mentions légales   credits : Atelier 144