Odéon Théâtre

In Montparnasse sits the Odéon Théâtre, one of France's six national theaters. This theater has survived through 3 fires, 2 revolutions, and 1 complete occupation. Through this all, continues to be a symbol of the importance of art in Montparnasse.

Located directly behind the Luxembourg Castle lies the Odéon Théâtre, one of the six national theaters of France. The theater is a gem and a constant source of artistic expression in the Montparnasse neighborhood and throughout Paris. With a rich history, the Odéon theatre is one example of the importance of art in Montparnasse.

Inaugurated in 1782, it is the oldest theater in Europe that is still active. Its original purpose was to house the Comédie Français, which decided instead to remain in the Palais Royal neighborhood. The theatre has gone through many different designs and rebuilds. After being inaugurated by Marie Antoinette in 1782, The Marriage of Figaro premiered before the Royal court in 1784 (Paris Office of Tourism). This marked one of the most historically important events in the buildings history. During the Revolution, the theater was renamed Théâtre de l’Egalité and many of the original actors were arrested for their loyalty to the throne. After a fire in 1799, the theater was reconstructed in 1808, after the Revolution. The architect of the Arc de Triomphe designed the new theater, with a new name, Théâtre de l’Impératrice. This was dedicated and named for Napoleon’s wife, the Impress. The building was again destroyed by fire in 1818 and rebuilt for the last time (Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe).

The theater faced criticism in the mid 1800’s, notably by Victor Hugo, who believed it unnecessary. The building was thought to be built too far away from the majority of the Parisian population and was often empty, as theaters in the Tuileries and the Palais Royal were preferred. However, the theater continued to produce new shows and entertain audiences. The next main event that occurred in the Odéon theater was its occupation during May 1968. The manager at the time, Jean-Louis Barrault, allowed the students to use it as a meeting and revolt site, even though it took several months to repair the damages (Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe). The theater has long been a sign of prestige and artistic representation in Montparnasse, and continues that legacy today.

The theater stands in the same location, and continues to produce theatrical shows, but has added a restaurant to the front. The theater itself was only open in the front lobby, and could not be walked around past that. The lobby still maintains traces of its nineteenth century decoration and structure, with large marble statues holding candelabras, but has also undergone recent updates as well. This showed a mix of tradition with urban, practical renovation. Outside the theater there are traces of its past, one being where chunks of the façade are missing, and an inscription tells that it was damaged by shrapnel during the liberation of Paris in 1944. The Odéon theater is an important part of Montparnasse due to its history and significance. The theater has been an artistic anchor for the Right Bank of Paris, and was the beginning of Montparnasse being known for its creative atmosphere. The theater has drawn patrons and artists alike to the area over the years, and continues to be a source of expressive outlet in the Montparnasse neighborhood.