Boulevard theatres

Definition

Theater

  • A series of theaters built on the Boulevard du Temple, Paris,from about 1760 onwards. A number of troupes had previously occupiedfairground locations there (see fairground entertainment).By the end of the century, such troupes as Audinot's, Nicolet's, theThéâtre des Associés, and the Variétés-Amusanteshad acquired elaborate buildings. The Ambigu-Comique opened in 1769as a children's and marionette theater, the Variétés-Amusantesin 1779, and the Porte-Saint-Martin, the largest of the Boulevard theaters, in1782.

    During the 19th century the Boulevard theaters provided mainlypopular melodrama; they later became more experimental in their productionmethods and were active in promoting new playwrights. Later boulevardtheaters included the Gaîté (1805), Gymnase (1820), andVaudeville (1868).

    Famous boulevard actors incuded Mme Dorval (1798 - 1849)who specialized in melodrama at the Porte-Saint-Martin, Bocage (Pierre-FrançoisTousez; 1797 - 1863), who played great lovers and eventually managedthe Odéon, the pantomimist Baptiste, who developedthe character of Pierrot at the Théâtre des Funambules,and Frédérick, who first appeared at theVariétés-Amusantes as a pantomime lion.

    The Boulevard, with its sideshows, fireworks, and cafés,was sometimes nicknamed the Boulevard of Crime, because of theviolent crimes presented in the melodramas of Guilbert de Pixerecourt(1773 - 1844), who became director of the Gaîté. In 1823 itwas estimated that 151,702 criminal acts had been displayed on the stages of theBoulevard theaters in the previous 20 years.

    Although the theaters were demolished during a redevelopmentof the Boulevard du Temple in 1862, the terms Boulevard theaterand Boulevard play continued to be used of popular Parisiandrama - especially the farces and domestic dramas of the early20th century. Successful authors of Boulevard plays included Georges Feydeau(1862 - 1921), celebrated for his numerous farces, Eugène Labiche(1815 - 88), who turned out more than 170 light comedies, and MarcelAchard (Marcel-Auguste Ferréol; 1899 - 1974) who wrote sentimentallove stories.

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