Spread out between the Grand Théâtre and one of the most prestigious hotels in Bordeaux, the Place de la Comédie is situated in the heart of the “Golden Triangle”, in the district of the “Grands Hommes”, designated as such for its prestigious brands and the majesty of its buildings. It hosts in its center a four-sided clock, the meeting point of the Bordelais, and until 2021, the sculpture “Sanna”. In the evening, the meticulous lighting shows this ensemble in all its splendour.
The Grand Théâtre
The city was deprived of its theatre in 1756 when it was destroyed by a fire ravaging the ditches of the Hôtel de Ville. Three men then joined forces to give Bordeaux a new theatre: Marshal de Richelieu, Dupre de Saint-Maur and the architect Victor Louis. Together they pursued the policy of embellishment and modernization of the medieval city, initiated by the intendants Boucher and Tourny, giving an opening and a new inspiration to Bordeaux with the creation of the royal squares (Place de la Bourse) and Allées de Tourny, the natural extension of Place de la Comédie and the public garden (Jardin Public).
Built between 1773 and 1780 on the former site of Château Trompette, the Grand Theâtre required seven years of work before the inauguration in 1780. Built in blond stones from Bourg (foundations), Saint-Macaire (peristyle) and Rauzan (pavement), the monument built in the Neo-classical style imposes by the massiveness of its volume and seduces by the antique charms of its peristyle and its side galleries.
Twelve Corinthian columns support a portico adorned with twelve stone statues 2.3 m high. They are the nine muses Euterpe, Urania, Calliope, Terpsichore, Melpomene, Thalia, Polymnia, Erato, Clio, and three goddesses Juno, Venus, Minerva, designed by the sculptor Pierre-François Berruer.
Inside the theatre we discover a monumental staircase, a decorated cupola and two statues, allegories of Comedy and Tragedy. The theatre, whose wooden structure provides optimal acoustics, has a very harmonious and elegant decoration in the royal colours gold, blue and white. These are reminiscent of the hues of the Versailles opera, built a short time before by architect Jacques Gabriel. The interior, a perfect configuration of the Italian theatre, is dominated by a circular cupola whose fresco ceiling was painted by Claude Robin in the 18th century, restored by François Roganeau in 1919.
The Grand Théâtre underwent major restoration and modernization in 1990 to meet the expectations of the 21st century scenography. The façade has regained its brilliance after a renovation, the old gold and red cladding imposed in the 19th century was replaced by the original decor, combining blue, white and gold.
The Grand Hôtel
Place de la Comédie consists of another great monument, the Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux, a building completely in harmony with the theatre, designed by the same architect, Victor Louis in 1776. There is the same façade of Neo-classical inspiration and a colonnade in the Corinthian style.
In 1999, a major transformation project was undertaken by the Bordeaux businessman Michel Ohayon, who bought a series of buildings with the aim to create the Grand Hôtel. Bordeaux architect Michel Pétuaud-Létang proceeded to stylistically bring together these eight different buildings, to achieve a coherent and harmonious whole. A mirror effect now reveals itself between the Grand Théâtre and Grand Hôtel, enhancing the harmony and grandeur of Place de la Comédie.
Art And Gastronomy
Place de la Comédie is dotted with works of arts and heritage, and prestigious gastronomic addresses. On the central line of the square, at the two ends, stand two identical clocks with four faces surmounted by five street lamps whose shape and colour are reminiscent of the old copper lights of the city.
At the entrance of the Chapeau Rouge street stands a cast iron statue called “Sanna”, a work of the Spanish sculptor Jaume Piensa. The sculpture depicts a woman’s soothing face, 7 meters high. Offered to the city initially for seven years thanks to the generosity of an anonymous art patron, she has now been watching over the place since 2004.
Finally, the site is a stronghold of the French gastronomy. The two chefs Philippe Etchebest at the restaurant The Fourth Wall and Gordon Ramsay, chef the Pressoir d’Argent, have both invested in this side of the Place de la Comédie, for the happiness of the taste buds and eyes. Not to mention the Larnicol brand, a major French producer of chocolates, and its equally tasty and amazing pastries.
Place de la Comédie superbly illustrates the prestige and elegance of the City of Bordeaux, and it is a testimony to the ideals of an open and cosmopolitan city dating from the times of the Age of Enlightenment.
Photos by Asgeir Pedersen, Spots France