Guenegaud Theatre in Paris (1673-1680) Volume One: Founding, Design and Production

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This is the first detailed study of the Hôtel Guénégaud, the first home of the Paris Opéra in 1670, and the first home of the Comédie Française ten years later. The account books remain in the Archives of the Comédie Française, providing the source for a highly detailed account of the administrative structures and day-to-day running of the theatre. Moreover, a study of the records of ticket sales makes possible not only an analysis of the tastes and composition of the Guénégaud's audience, but also an attempted reconstruction of the theatre auditorium. This book will be helpful for academics in the fields of drama and theatre studies. All quotations from French sources are given in translation. Part one of a projected three-volume work.


"Dr. Clarke begins with the most thorough survey I know, and the first in English, of the crisis affecting all the Paris theatres in 1673, and her ability to tease out details and to show their place in the wider picture is soon apparent. The narrative of negotiations over the composition of the Guénégaud and company and its eventual choice of a new home is thus turned into compelling reading. Not merely is this a gripping story, however, but it also shows the virtues of rigorous analysis and logical argument. ... This is also the first substantial work to illustrate how crucial was the role of La Grange, Molière's erstwhile lieutenant. ... Dr. Clarke pulls together a vast array of decrees, petitions, financial deals, contracts, glimpsed and half glimpsed in La Grange's register and available in their original form only to the most diligent researchers ... and makes of all this not just a dry list of events and agreements, names and dates, but a revealing study of what it was like to be in that theatre company in that period. ... We have never known as much as we would like about the physical design of the Guénégaud theatre. Dr. Clarke combines scattered evidence to give us the best picture we have seen so far, adding information about the capacity of the auditorium, the kinds of audience, admission prices and the company's pricing strategy, the distribution of seating and standing room, down to such fascinating details as the numbers of persons accommodated in the boxes. Much of this information is collected for the first time. ... I have rarely read a work which so successfully combines thoroughness and intellectual rigour with readability and the knack of engaging the reader's interest." - William Brooks

"The strength of Dr. Clarke's study is the wealth of evidence supplied, particularly from the account books of the Guénégaud company, housed in the archives of the Comédie-Française. Dr. Clarke has exploited this material, largely ignored by theatre historians, most judiciously. Her fastidious enquiry leads her to reassess information provided by seventeenth-century actors and chroniclers (e.g. Mlle. Auzillon, La Grange, Hubert and Chappuzeau) and to challenge the assumptions of leading twentieth-century historians of theatre (e.g. Carrington-Lancaster, Lough). At no time does Dr. Clarke blur distinctions between fact and speculation. ... References to contemporary figures, companies and staging practices should further widen the readership of this book. Of particular interest are: the account of the evolution of theatre design, which is enhanced by illustrations from contemporary engravings; the inverse parallels drawn in the analysis of the fortunes of the Guénégaud and the Hôtel de Bourgogne; the biographical information on the Crosnier family, some of whom were used to great effect by Molière. In short, with its appendices - 14 illustrations of theatre architecture, numerous charts indicating value of shares, repertoire, box-office takings for different parts of the house, employees and associates - and rich bibliography, this is a most impressive work. It will be an invaluable work of reference for scholars and of benefit to students of theatre studies, who will look forward to the publication of volumes II and III." - Noël Peacock

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