The Comédie Francaise

The oldest theatre company in the world. Experience all the excitement and the history of this institution.

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La Comédie Francaise - Hôtel Mansart

At the Hôtel Mansart we invite you to discover the oldest theatre company in the world, and all the excitement of the performing arts, like the hive that is the institution's symbol.


Bringing together the Salle Richelieu, the Vieux-Colombier Theatre and the Carrousel du Louvre Studio Theatre, the Comédie Française, founded 335 years ago, continues to present classical, but also contemporary plays, all of the very highest quality.

 

The history of the Comédie Française


Originally, Molière managed a company of actors at the Palais Royal, the rivals of two other troupes: the companies of the Marais and of the Hôtel de Bourgogne. When the famous playwright died, his actors merged with the troupe in the Marais, and then, in 1680, the king decreed the foundation of a single company that took the name of "The King's Players" and later,  the "Comédie-Française" in opposition to the Italian school of actors. The motto of the institution is "simul et singulis" ("to be together and to be yourself"), its emblem is the bee, together with a hive symbolising the cultural richness of the site.

At the time, plays were performed by 27 actors, all chosen by the monarch. On the programme were works by Corneille, Racine or Molière, performed by Armande de Béjart, La Grange, Du Croisy… During the French Revolution, the company was disbanded, and then, from 1799, the actors moved to the Théâtre Français de la République in Rue Richelieu. Napoleon gave them a new official status. The members were now called Sociétaires (“Society Members”). The programme of plays on offer was broadened to include Romantic plays by Alfred de Vigny, Victor Hugo or Alexandre Dumas. Then came the triumph of the comédie bourgeoise with such performers as Sarah Bernardt, and writers like Banville, Ponsard or Augier.

Today the Comédie Française performs in three venues: the Salle Richelieu, the traditional site of the Comédie Française, the Vieux-Colombier Theatre and the Studio-Theatre in the gallery of the Carrousel du Louvre.


The Comédie Française Museum

The museum's singularity is that visitors walk through the entire theatre to discover its rich collection, only ten minutes away from the Hôtel Mansart on foot. In all, there are 360 paintings and 27 sculptures, retracing the history of the site and the theatre company. The Galerie des bustes (the Bust Gallery) immortalises the major playwrights. The artists' foyer is decorated with paintings, including the portrait of Molière by Mignard, and of Talma by Delacroix.

But the centrepiece is the relic of the famous armchair in Le Malade Imaginaire, where Molière acted for the last time before his death.

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