The theatre or how to make life more complicated in 200 years
The municipality decides to build a theatre to replace the archaic theatre on rue des Quatre-Vents dating from 1765: “the project is composed of a theatre in modern style, a large public foyer, a beautiful coffee shop and its accessories… which has the advantage of contributing greatly to the beautification of the city and providing the public with the convenience of the current hall, the construction project will have the even more precious advantage of putting an end to the danger whose spectators are daily threatened with suffocation in this old hall”.
Faced with the municipality’s delays, the project was taken over by a shareholder company. The theatre is built on the site of a dilapidated part of the small château Gloriette, adjoining the ducal palace. The first stone was laid on 25 November 1809 and the construction was made official by placing a faience plate on a corner stone. This plaque had to be placed with some solemnity because, underneath it, when it was later unsealed, three new 1 franc coins bearing the effigy of Napoleon I were found. However, the building was far from complete: disagreement among the shareholders, financial problems and various difficulties delayed the progress of the construction site, which was interrupted in 1812.
The municipality took charge of the project, but projects and counter-projects postponed the resumption of the site until 1822. It is finally the direct intervention of the mayor, Mr. de Bouillé, regularly on site to stimulate the work, which allows the building to be completed. A first inauguration took place on August 31, 1823, but on a stage without equipment, hence a new inauguration on January 6, 1824.
1835 à 1843
A magnificent chandelier decorated with crystals and weighing nearly 200 kg replaces the old fashioned one. The “detestable cast iron stoves”, which annoy spectators, were replaced by heaters with copper columns and heat registers.
A staircase carved in the old wall directly connects the theatre and the rue des Ouches. According to Raoul Toscan, he soon took the nickname “Queylus ditches”, in reference to Paul Féval’s novel Le Bossu.
The theatre hosts workers’ “clubs”, a kind of disgruntled trade union that proclaims demands and aims to reform the social order. These meetings accelerate the deterioration of the interior, particularly the velvets, paintings and decorations, which leads to the closure of the building.
First renovation: the auditorium is decorated in the Empire style, “cream and gold”.
The fire at the Opéra comique in Paris raises concerns about the security conditions in the theatre, where the situation is extremely delicate. Indeed, the decoration reserve is located just above cellars overlooking rue des Ouches, cellars used by two tenants: the Artillery, which stores its powder barrels, and a coffee shop, which has made it its alcohol reserve.
After the immediate addition of two metal ladders on the facade to evacuate spectators from “paradise”, several restoration projects followed one another. This restoration is also necessary due to the poor condition of the facade’s freestone, most of which is frozen or brittle.
1898 – 1899
The restoration work was entrusted to the architect Brazeau, who gave the building its current appearance. Outside, the construction of a large peristyle protects the entrance from the elements and creates an overhang as a terrace. Two side stairs are added as hors d’oeuvres to replace the fire escape ladders. A steel structure replaces the previous one made of flammable wood and the slate roof is redone. The decoration of the auditorium is entirely taken over in a taste of the end of the century. The parterre is enlarged thanks to the removal of the refreshment bar and it is equipped with seating. Various amenities are also added, including gas lighting and electric bells. The restored theatre was inaugurated on 4 November 1899.
American and Canadian troops stationed in the area use the theatre as a place of entertainment. If they install electricity to replace gas for lighting, they dismantle the large chandelier that has become annoying. This one will never be found.
1927 à 1947
Installation of central heating following protests from artists and spectators. Installation of a luminous crown on the ceiling, composed of 100 frosted spherical lamps, and installation of emergency lighting. Replacement of the boiler by radiators.
The Departmental Security Commission is calling for modernization to meet security standards. Before undertaking any work, the Nevers Theatre Commission visits other theatres (Moulins, Vichy, etc.) whose design and technique in machinery have been tested. Safety is upgraded by reinforcing the doors giving access to the tray to prevent the fire from spreading and by building a chimney to provide an air draught on stage in the event of a disaster. The foyer was renovated and the artists’ dressing rooms were finally equipped with sanitary facilities. Finally, the extension of the orchestra pit and the modernization of the lighting improve the comfort of the auditorium.
Following the closure in 1971 (the theatre no longer met the new safety standards), almost all the interior and roofs were renovated: decoration, boxes and orchestra pit rooms were refurbished; the stage was reinforced and fire protection was provided; heating, acoustic and electrical equipment and lighting were renovated; chairs and draperies were replaced. The capacity is limited to 300 seats for the comfort of the spectators, knowing that the “paradise” is eliminated and that the lighting and sound control room, installed on the second front balcony, neutralizes part of the available seats. Attached to the Maison de la Culture, the theatre enjoys management autonomy entrusted to the administrator manager Jean-François Save. The inauguration took place on September 26, 1980.
The facade, roof and auditorium are included in the additional inventory of Historic Monuments.
Installation of a net under the ceiling to prevent plaster falls. Improvement of signage indicating emergency exits and upgrading of electrical systems… which does not prevent a closure in 2009.
Partial reopening and scheduling of the works for delivery at the end of 2017.
On September 8 and 9, the Nevers Municipal Theatre officially reopens. The program of the cultural season is announced on this occasion.