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Court Theatre - Shows at Fontainebleau
Eléments de décors, Décor de théâtre. Musée national du château de Fontainebleau © RMN / Gérard Blot.

FONTAINEBLEAU, FRANCE.-Musée national du château de Fontainebleau presets Court Theatre - Shows at Fontainebleau in the Eighteenth Century, on view through January 23, 2006. An exhibition organised by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux and the Musée National du Château de Fontainebleau, with special support from the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

In the eighteenth century, the Château de Fontainebleau was a particularly creative environment producing many new shows that enjoyed lasting success. Le Devin de village by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1752, as well as Zémire et Azor and La caravane du Caire by André Modeste Grétry in 1771 and 1783 were performed for the first time before the court at Fontainebleau. This exhibition explores several aspects of dramatic and operatic creation during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI (sets, repertoire, actors) and looks at the history of the theatre (where the exhibition is held) fitted out in the wing of the Great Fireplace in 1725 and destroyed by fire in 1856.

When the court moved to Fontainebleau for four to six weeks in the autumn, the chateau hummed with theatrical activity. French and Italian actors joined musicians from the Royal Academy of Music to give brilliant performances from the 1750s until 1786, the court’s last stay in Fontainebleau. The chateau’s theatre had been decorated in 1725 to drawings by Robert de Cotte, with carved decors by the Slodtz brothers, artists for the Menus-Plaisirs du Roi. The repertoire was made up of operas, ballets and plays. Among the important works were operas such as Dardanus and Anacréon by Jean-Philippe Rameau, and Le Devin de village by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, along with comic operas by Niccolò Piccinni (Didon) and Grétry (Zémire et Azor, Richard Cœur de Lion, La caravane du Caire).

Recently rediscovered and restored, pieces of the original sets for the ballet Le Déserteur are here presented to the public for the first time. Costumes and props, drawings, engravings, and manuscripts complete this glimpse of the way shows were organised at the chateau: 150 works in all, from private and public collections in France and abroad.

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