Opened in the mid-19th century in a former church, Châtellerault’s theatre soon became the focal point of the town’s artistic and cultural life. Designed in the Italian theatre style, it has a horseshoe-shaped auditorium that was opulently redecorated in 1899 and has remained almost unchanged ever since. The stage house is today almost unique in France, with the only other example being the Marie-Antoinette Theatre in Versailles, in that it contains Italian-style machinery: stage slits and under-stage chariots, wooden poles and drums, wires and cleat lines, pulleys, frame-mounted scenery, etc.
Closed in 1977, the theatre underwent an impressive restoration programme between 2011 and 2013. With its period scenery and machinery, today the theatre is both an important heritage site and an artistic venue. Following the discreet integration of modern equipment, it is once again able to put on productions.
The ‘Pays d'Art et d’Histoire’ department of the Communauté d'Agglomération du Châtelleraudais runs guided tours for groups all year round (booking required), plus educational and themed tours for individuals (machinery, workshops, recreational tour, etc.) during the school holidays and on some weekends.
These include tours of the front-of-house areas (peristyle, vestibule, foyer, Ridotto) and the original stage curtain, a look around the auditorium and the different levels (stalls, circles and gallery), a tour of the stage house and part of the machinery, scenery store, etc.
The visit ends with a film telling the story of the restoration. In 2017, enjoy a brand new theatre experience with tour-and-show combos and wandering musical interludes in summer.
Information and reservations at the Pays Châtelleraudais Tourist Office (+33 (0)5 49 21 05 47).