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A little history of Lyon Opera

The façade | Daderot / Public domain
Auditorium Molière Lyon Opera

A travelling theatre

In the beginning of the 18th century, a permanent theatre was founded in Lyon. I said permanent, because at that time, actors went from town to town and put together trestles on the streets.

They performed plays in churches, in Middle-Ages, plays called mystères, "mysteries".

A kind of little sketches talking about saints and other religious things. In Lyon, we know that in 1538, a man called Jean Neyron made the first attempt of a permanent theatre, rue des Augustins.

This rich bourgeois owned a vast plot of lands near the Augustine church, in order to raise a big theatre flanked by several superposed galleries and a painted ceiling.

They performed here "on Sunday after dinner stories about the New and Old Testament".

The theatre didn’t last long after Neyron’s death... Then in 1600, the manécanterie (singing school), near St-Jean cathedral, was used as a theatre when king of France Henri IV came in visit. Italians actors performed tragedies...

Even Molière came to perform his Etourdi play for the first time, in 1654! Yes he did, in a small theatre, located near the church of St-Paul.

There, comedians Mrs. Duparc and De Brie left their company in Lyon in order to come in Molière’s one...

This one came back in Lyon few years later, but this time, he gave all the profits to Lyon's general hospital!

The current theatre

The first permanent theatre dates back to 1713, located on the place du Gouvernement. Several times destroyed by fires, architect Soufflot re-raised it in 1756.

They performed Britannicus for the inauguration, with the famous tragic actress from Paris, Mrs. Clairon, who played Agrippina!

But once again, they had to rebuild the theatre, the one created by architects Chenavard and Pollet, from Lyon, between 1828 and 1831. On the ground floor, people opened shops...

Restored in 1842 by architect René Dardel (he also raised the Stock Exchange of Lyon), we can see 8 muses on the attic, the famous Greek Muses, Zeus' daughters, often associated to arts.

Well, 8 Muses, are you sure? They are 9 Muses, aren't they?! Yes, for sure... But here, they deleted Urania, the Astronomy Muse! Because 9 wasn’t a symmetrical number...

Finally, the building site of the current theatre started in 1989: Jean Nouvel added a huge dome above the building.

About the the author

I'm fond of strolls and History, with juicy and spicy details!