Entertainment Theater

After a Lengthy Intermission, a New Act for a Flagship Paris Theater

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Lots can occur in seven years. When the Théâtre de la Ville — a flagship venue for Paris’s up to date dance and theater scene — final welcomed audiences, in late 2016, TikTok had simply launched. A pandemic appeared like a far-fetched thought. La(Horde), the influential dance collective featured prominently through the theater’s reopening festivities this month, was nonetheless wholly unknown.

Roughly half of the Théâtre de la Ville’s present workers joined through the closure and didn’t set foot within the constructing throughout renovations, its director Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota mentioned throughout a tour of the playhouse final month. (Whereas it was closed, exhibits continued at a brief location, the Espace Cardin, at associate venues and on the Théâtre de la Ville’s second stage, Les Abbesses.)

Anticipation for the reopening was excessive, and the Théâtre de la Ville does look — and really feel — completely different. First, it boasts a brand new, barely unwieldy identify: the Théâtre de la Ville-Sarah Bernhardt, a nod to its most well-known proprietor, the French actress who ran the house between 1899 and 1923. (The venue’s web site has but to mirror the rebrand.)

The largest change, nonetheless, hits whenever you stroll by way of the doorways. The heavy-looking concrete staircase that led from the doorway into the auditorium has been eradicated. Discrete stairs are actually hidden behind the corridor, and two curved mezzanines in heat wooden tones hug the facade — with panoramic views of the neighborhood, together with the Théâtre du Châtelet, the rival playhouse that stands throughout the road.

The closure was by no means meant to final this lengthy. The preliminary plan was a partial renovation to carry the Théâtre de la Ville, which hadn’t had a major improve since 1967, as much as present safety and technical requirements. Difficulties rapidly piled up, initially due to in depth lead and asbestos, then owing to the Covid pandemic. The full value, first estimated at 26 million euros, or $27.5 million, in the end rose to €40 million ($42 million).

The result’s a distinctly Twenty first-century replace, which provides yet one more layer to what was already an architectural mille-feuille. Inaugurated in 1862, the constructing was destroyed through the Paris Commune of 1871 and rebuilt a couple of years later. It was then rebranded a number of instances earlier than the town of Paris selected to reimagine it in 1966. Whereas the facade and roof remained, the Italian-style inside was gutted in favor of a extra egalitarian, Brutalist-style auditorium, designed by Jean Perrottet and Valentin Fabre.

The auditorium nonetheless feels acquainted. Whereas the seats are actually a muted shade of sand as a substitute of grey, its concrete underpinnings — dotted right here and there with gold leaf — nonetheless cling over guests within the corridor. Behind the scenes, nonetheless, the stage equipment has been totally up to date. Even the mezzanines are actually geared up with curtains {and professional} lighting, for smaller in situ performances.

And Demarcy-Mota, Théâtre de la Ville’s director since 2008, is making an attempt to make up for misplaced time. In early October, the reopening was marked with a free 26-hour efficiency marathon, “The Nice Vigil,” starring round 300 artists from the fields of dance, theater and music.

Some, just like the choreographers Angelin Preljocaj and Lucinda Childs, had been regulars lengthy earlier than the Théâtre de la Ville closed. One other frequent customer, the flamenco star Israel Galvan, made a shock look for a superb duet with the French harpsichordist Benjamin Alard.

Others had been making their Théâtre de la Ville debut, just like the pianist Yi-Lin Wu, who set a meditative tone round 1 a.m. with a efficiency of Ravel’s shimmering “Gaspard de la Nuit.” There was one thing eerie about wandering the halls late into the evening, encountering a extremely theatrical statue of Bernhardt enjoying Phaedra, by a staircase, and climbing as much as a newly opened studio, La Coupole, to look at “Ionesco Suite,” a five-play mash-up of the French dramatist’s works, directed by Demarcy-Mota — till nicely previous 3 a.m.

For a lot of guests on the opening, it was a joyful reunion with a playhouse that formed a lot of the French dance scene within the final a long time of the twentieth century. At the moment, the Théâtre de la Ville fiercely promoted avant-garde up to date dance, and have become generally known as the Parisian dwelling of the Tanztheater luminary Pina Bausch, who visited every year.

This identification had begun to shift within the years earlier than the Théâtre de la Ville closed, with a larger variety of choreographic developments represented on its stage. Nonetheless, throughout its seven-year absence, different Parisian venues just like the Grande Halle of La Villette have stepped up their dance choices or reoriented their focus to favor extra numerous voices and collectives, lots of them steeped in avenue dance kinds.

In order the Théâtre de la Ville-Sarah Bernhardt kicked its first season into gear this month, it was generally laborious to discern what units it aside from different theaters. Excessive-profile choreographers are now not recognized with particular person venues, the way in which Théâtre de la Ville as soon as was with Bausch: Each programmer on the town appears to need the identical names.

The collective La(Horde), which took over the stage after “The Nice Vigil,” is one instance. Lower than per week earlier than its run of “Marry Me In Bassiani,” a manufacturing the group created for a Georgian firm, Iveroni Ensemble, La(Horde) was throughout the road on the Théâtre du Châtelet with its latest creation, “Age of Content material.”

There will probably be a lot extra alternatives to see what Théâtre de la Ville-Sarah Bernhardt does with its revitalized venue as its season progresses. Demarcy-Mota, a theater director who splits his programming between dance, theater and a smattering of music occasions, mentioned in his inauguration speech final month that he sees the stage as “an area for contradiction.”

And the joys of discovering new work in a theater recognized for groundbreaking performances may already be felt final week when La Coupole, the upstairs studio, hosted “En Addicto,” a one-man present impressed by a monthslong residency in a hospital wing dedicated to addicts.

Its director and performer, Thomas Quillardet, let the voices of workers and sufferers alike stream by way of him with simply the correct mix of empathy and levity. It dropped at thoughts Demarcy-Mota’s dedication to sending Théâtre de la Ville artists to native hospitals through the pandemic, to share poems or mini-performances. It’s been a protracted wait, however these artists can lastly come dwelling.