Being in Paris at the intersection of Palais Royal Square and Rue de Richelieu you’ll see an elegant building with columns where the famous Parisian theater Comedie-Francaise is situated. This theater is the pride of France and one of the oldest theaters not only in the country but also in Europe. Its glorious history has begun in the late seventeenth century by a decision of King Louis XIV to unite all Parisian theaters of that time. The basis of the theater was a troupe of Moliere and actors of Marais theater.
This decision the king was based on his desire to make Parisian theatrical performances more perfect. The special royal decree on the establishment of Comedie-Francaise was signed in 1680. It contained the names of actors and actresses of the troupe, the right to put on the stage serious dramatic plays in French, and also ensured the new theater subsidies from the government.
The first company consisted of twelve actresses and fifteen actors, considered the best in this business in Paris of that time. At the beginning of its existence Comedie-Francaise offered inhabitants and guests of Paris plays, which its actors have previously been involved in at other theatrical stages. This went on before talented pupil of the great Moliere – Lagrange – had become an art director of the theater.
Thenadays the most popular dramatic theater in Paris was the Italian Theatre whose performances were in the language of Dante. And despite the fact that there were serious problems with understanding Italian language in the French capital the theater had full houses regularly. However, Comedie-Francaise won the competition quickly and earned the respect of the demanding Parisian audience.
Naturally, the reasons of growth of popularity are the facts that it was the National Theatre (and its first name was “French theater”). It was easy for the Parisians to understand what was happening on the stage. Moreover, actors of the theater has a high level of professionalism and dramatics. Comedy-Francese has figured prominently in shaping of the professional theaters in other European countries. So, for example, actors of the theater organized “open days” for the actors of other French and foreign theaters, holding master-classes of the dramatic art.
Talented actors and directors, actual in the terms of aesthetics and social development repertoire, and respect of traditions of the national culture… All these moments helped Comedie-Francaise to become a leading European theater and play an important role in the artistic life. Jeanne Sylvanie Arnould-Plessy, Raucourt, Léontine Pauline Jeanne Samary, Maria Casarès, Marie Madeleine Guimard, Jeanne Moreau, Sarah Bernhardt, and many other talented actors and actresses created the history of this great theatre.
Today the Comédie-Français theater continues to be one of the most popular in France. Many theater-fanciers crave for to see as the cult plays as the premiere performances of the theater.