A mobile theatre – at home anywhere?

The Théâtre des Nations in Geneva

Bühnentechnische Rundschau

A mobile wooden theatre, built for the Comédie Française, is currently standing in Geneva, close to the UN headquarters. It is set to remain until 2018, when the renovation of the Geneva opera house is due to be completed. While the basic elements of the original Théâtre Ephémère (temporary theatre) were simply re-used, several alterations were made to turn it into a venue for opera. In view of its current location, it has been renamed the Théâtre des Nations. But its future is already under discussion.

The Théâtre Ephémère was first built in 2012 for the Comédie Française, whose main workplace, the Salle Richelieu in the heart of Paris, was having new stage technology installed. France’s leading drama ensemble needed an alternative venue. Luckily – space is at a premium in Paris – they were able to use the royal palace’s Cour d’honneur. Here, the architects Alain-Charles Perrot and Florent Richard, cooperating with scenographer Michel Fayet, could build the temporary theatre directly adjoining the Salle Richelieu and so create essential underground access to the theatre’s warehouses and boxes. With its good acoustics and warm atmosphere, the 750-seat venue proved very popular with the public.

Off to Switzerland!

A few years later, the Grand Théâtre de Genève was looking for an alternative venue during its two-year renovation, scheduled to be completed in June 2018. A space was found in Geneva for the temporary theatre, but on a hilly field not far from the UN headquarters and directly opposite the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. This location then gave the mobile venue its new name: Opéra des Nations.
As the requirements and conditions in Geneva differed from those in Paris, it was not rebuilt as a 1:1 duplicate of the original. Additional boxes were attached to make up for its isolated location in Geneva, and an orchestra pit installed as it will be used for opera rather than drama. And the capacity was enlarged from 750 to 1118. All in all, the wooden foundations now cover 2800 m²: The original 60 x 20 m structure was extended to 80 x 35 m including the foundations. Instead of laying concrete for these, 300 wooden posts were inserted in the ground. All sourced from local forests, they now bear the weight of the opera house. So, it was widened to allow for more seating, and lengthened to make space for the orchestra pit and the boxes. In addition, crossbeams were installed and a second floor with extensive reception areas. In fact, not much is ephemeral about the Théâtre des Nations. Construction took seven months, at a cost of eleven million Swiss francs – more than was invested in the original construction in Paris but less than a whole new building of the same dimensions, even a wooden one, would have cost.

Perhaps it was built to stay after all: The Théâtre Ephémère has proven so popular that the Genevans are considering keeping it as a permanent institution for the many diplomats in the city. 

BTR Sonderband 2017
Rubrik: English texts, Seite 218
von Thomas Hahn

Weitere Beiträge
Inspiring confidence in the future

The new arts centre in Athens named after shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos (SNFCC), housing the national library and the state opera, is due to open its doors in the autumn. But an enthusiastic public did not want to wait: On popular demand, a pre-opening event was held last year as the first in a staggered process, with each section of the complex inaugurated with a performance as it is...

A Music Shop Drops Anchor

Dubai had a population of only 90,000 in 1960 and was an underdeveloped sleepy desert sheikdom. Today it is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. By 2020 it will have an estimated population of over 2.8 million and will host the 2020 World’s Fair. A new quarter was built in one piece, Downtown Dubai. This is where the new opera house was inaugurated in 2016. The auditorium...

Musik aus der schwingenden Mitte

Zwei Konzertbesuche geben einen Eindruck von der Attraktion des neuen Berliner Musikorts. Zuerst beim Streichquartett: Der Sitzplatz ist eine Art Barhocker hinter der Brüstung der oberen Sitzreihe. Zusätzlich hineingestellt oder immer da? Es ist unerheblich, vermittelt einen Werkstattcharakter – wie auch die schlichten Stühle auf der Bühnenfläche rund ums Quartett. Licht fällt noch in den...