Last week, I got to reflect on my Saturday spent at Opéra Garnier. Some 24 hours later, I found myself sitting in the theater balcony of the oldest still-active theater in the world attending a performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Wild.
Getting my hands on an entrance to the House of Molière, nowadays known as Comédie Française, was a feat in itself. The play was almost fully booked once it had been released as part of the program. Not that that’s something of a rarity considering the number of Parisians interested in theater. I was left with the impression that because it was a Shakesperean play, the majority of spectators had preferred to reserve their seats quickly and way in advance.
Furthermore, the logical thing for me to do - and definitely something I haven’t given up my hope on - is to see a classical French play. With that comes the obvious dilemma of understanding the dialogue, which, were it Molière, is close to impossible for the French themselves.
The fact that I picked an English theater piece doesn’t make it any way easier for the play wasn’t delivered in the author’s native language. I didn’t give much thought to that at the time of purchasing my ticket. And besides, I already knew the story, so that facilitated the process of enjoying it. Did I mention that the actors did a fabulous job?!
Back to the building itself - it’s surprisingly small. Compared to Parisians standards of grandeur anyway. The use of gold and mirrors is taken down to the minimum, limiting itself to a single hall (another one reminiscent of Versaille's Hall of Mirrors) and it’s precisely the place to sip a glass of champagne while overlooking the square in front.
To reach that view, you have to climb a double staircase scrutinized by chandeliers and statues of heroines and plaques bearing the names of authors. Crossing the golden room takes you to an entrance of The Hall of Busts. It’s a narrow corridor lined on one side with your typical French windows while on the other, tall columns supporting busts of France’s most rrespected writers observe the streets before the building. At the very end, glass encases an 17th-century armchair used by none other than Molière in his play The Imaginary Invalid. He pretty much died sitting in it during what would be his last performance!