• A general name used from about 1680 for companies presentingthe Italian commedia dell'arte in France. Italian troupeshad first come to Paris in the 16th century, performing at the Salledu Petit-Bourbon and the Palais-Royal before settling into the Hôtelde Bourgogne in 1680. Louis XIV subsequently gave permissionfor the Italian companies to act in French, despite strong oppositionfrom the Comédie-Française. The French playwrights Charles-RivièreDufresny and Jean-François Regnard wrote a series of comedies(often in collaboration) for the Comédie-Italienne from 1688onwards.

    The Comédie-Italienne companies were banished fromFrance in 1697 for offending Madame de Maintenon, the king's mistress,with their production of La Fausse Prude. After Louis's deathin 1715, they returned to the Hôtel de Bourgogne under Lélio(Luigi Riccoboni) and created a new style of acting that combinedItalian exuberance with French elegance. In particular, the companiesexcelled in the sophisticated comedies of Marivaux. By thistime, however, the companies had become Italian in little more thanname, the last Italian actor being Carlin (1713 - 83).

    In the mid 18th century they began to exploit the fashionablenew genre of opera buffa (comic opera). Carlo Goldoni,who wrote over 200 plays, settled in Paris to direct the Comédie-Italiennein the 1760s. In 1783 the company moved to a new theater on the streetnow known as the Boulevard des Italiens; they merged with the ThéâtreFeydeau to form the Opéra-Comique in 1801.