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History of La Gaite Lyrique Museum

The Gaite Lyrique was originally designed as a theatre in Paris yet has had a turbulent and eventful history, but the place has had a complete makeover, and is now a cultural centre and museum in Paris hosting concerts, movies, lectures and themed exhibitions each year.

The beginnings of La Gaite Lyrique

Baron Haussmann was the gentleman that put many different planning ideas and construction projects into place during the 1860s, and it was during the major works that were being undertaken on the Boulevard de Sebastopol that a theatre was relocated from the Boulevard du Temple to 3 bis Rue Papin.

The building on 3 bis Rue Papin became the Theatre de la Gaite Lyrique with its 1800 seat hall that was decorated by Felix Jobbe-Duval, a truly majestic lobby and elegant public foyer, that meant it was soon classed a jewel in Parisian culture.
And even by the cities standards, during the Paris Commune, the amount of visitors and its takings were amongst the highest for this type entertainment venue in Paris and when it was constructed it was one of the largest Italian styles great halls in the city where and many others were to perform.

The next few decades at La Gaite Lyrique

Over the years this building has been home to many different musical directors including Jacques Offenbach, but it has also changed its name many times as well such as to the Theatre Lyrique, Opera Populaire, Opera Municipal de la Gaite and so on, but the demanding productions always remained very popular with the public throughout the history of the Gaite Lyrique.

And it was here that Victor Hugo celebrated his 70th birthday and during the 1920s it played host to Russian ballets, however during World War II when Paris was under occupation, the theatre was looted and the great chandelier that had been installed by Offenbach went missing along with many other items, yet fortunately the chandelier was eventually recovered.

During post World War II performances were back in full swing and there were many successful theatre productions played at La Gaite Lyrique during the 1970s, but by the beginning of the 1980s the imposing dome of the great hall proved to be dangerous and like to collapse.

And although it was cemented, the dome was subsequently destroyed as part of plans for the Planete Magique, which was meant to be an amusement park in Paris, right in the heart of the city, and even though parts of the original building were destroyed in 1987, just like the dome, some of it remained.  But the amusement park was only open for a matter of weeks in 1989. 

After closing down, this forgotten landmark in Paris was to be empty and silent, gathering dust, that is until 2002 when the city of Paris decided to set up a completely new cultural centre on the spot of the former theatre in Paris.

The renovation and cultural project for La Gaite Lyrique

At this time, a team that was led by Pierre Bongiovanni based themselves at the building of the former theatre and then amusement park from the October of 2002 through to the April of 2004, yet a competition was put in place in 2003 for the creation of a cultural centre and contemporary space dedicated to music and digital culture.

It was only in the December of 2003 that the company Manuelle gautrand Architectes was awarded the project of renovating the building and improving the place to become a contemporary music and cultural centre that would combine many different areas.

And at that time there were really only two of the original and beautiful spaces that remained after the impact of the disastrous amusement park idea, which were the lobby and the foyer as much of the rest had been stripped of its original style or had been completely demolished.

But before the architecture could even be thought about, there needed to be a complete plan in place as to what the Gaite Lyrique was to aimed at achieving.  And the whole idea was to create spaces that would be open to all different forms of contemporary artistic practises that linked with digital technology from audio and visual through to live performances and exhibitions.

The project was conceived with a box within a box approach, so that the most audio sensitive areas like the great hall are enclosed within its core and many other spaces are surrounding these, which means that acoustic isolation becomes greater the further to the outside of the building you go.

And there are three main performances venues at the heart of the cultural centre, which are the great hall that can be adjusted to accommodate tiered seating, standing and even large projections on all four walls, a smaller hall that is a more intimate space and is completely reconfigurable with its modular design concept, plus there is an auditorium.

Yet the other spaces, some of which are large, provide optimum space for exhibitions, whereas others have been specifically designed to certain purposes such as a Video Games room, resource centre, the foyer, cafe, etc.  However, many of these rooms can actually change depending upon the programme that has been organised, whether it be as dressing rooms, artists studios, offices, additional exhibition spaces and more.

However, the historical foyer of the original Theatre de la Gaite Lyrique has been entirely renovated and restored, along with the historical lobby and the facade, so even though the interior is mainly contemporary, there are still some aspects of the original building remaining from when it was first constructed back in 1862.

More information on La Gaite Lyrique Museum

  -  La Gaite Lyrique Museum

Address and Contact Details

La Gaite Lyrique
3 biz Rue Papin
Ile de France

Resource Centre Tel: +33 (0) 1 53 01 51 70
Box Office Tel: +33 (0) 1 53 01 51 51

Tourist attractions close by

  -  Prieure Saint-Martin-des-Champs
  -  Musee des Arts et Metiers
  -  Square du General Morin
  -  Arts et Metiers Metro Station
  -  Andy Wahloo

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