The Théâtre de l'Alcazar was a famous theater founded in the mid-19th century that was located in the heart of Marseille's Bourse district, on Cours Belsunce, near the Canebière. Since the 1960s, the site has been gradually abandoned; since 2004, it has been home to a municipal library.

photo de Charlotte Noblet
View of the library from Cours Belsunce.
General information
Town or cityMarseille
Coordinates43°17′56″N 5°22′36″E / 43.29889°N 5.37667°E / 43.29889; 5.37667
Year(s) built1857

History edit

The Théatre de l'Alcazar Lyrique opened its doors on October 10, 1857. The inauguration, attended by the town's notables, lasted two days before the public was admitted. The curiosity and envy of the public, heightened by the admiring comments of celebrities on the quality of the show and the service, gave excellent publicity to the hall, which its operators had no difficulty filling.

In keeping with the trends of the time, owner Étienne Demolins chose a "Moorish fantasy" style for his café-concert hall, inspired in particular by the Alhambra in Granada.

This visionary built the theatre at great expense on a vast site on Cours Belsunce, behind the Old Port and the Palais de la Bourse. The latter of the two was the stables of Transports Brousset, which housed the horses of its imperial omnibuses, then rail omnibuses and other horse-drawn carriages, from "pataches" to large goods wagons. Indeed, with the creation of the French: Compagnie Générale des Omnibus de Marseille in 1856, the stables on Cours Belsunce and Allées de Noailles were moved to Malpassé and Bonneveine.[1]

The café-concert hall was built to accommodate 2,000 people who could watch the show while seated, as well as drink and smoke. Above the hall, galleries led to the famous henhouse. Night parties and summer shows were held in the garden. In the 1860s, the Alcazar established its reputation by welcoming local artists as well as Parisian celebrities. Its audiences soon acquired a reputation for having high standards.[2] From 1868 to 1890, the Alcazar was a mecca for pantomime in Marseille, first with Charles Deburau (until 1871), then Louis Rouffe (from 1874 to 1885), and finally Séverin (Séverin Cafferra, dit) until his departure for Paris.[3]

A fire destroyed the theater on June 25, 1873, but no one was hurt. The theatre reopened 4 months later. On April 20, 1889, the Alcazar underwent a renovation that included the creation of the entrance door topped by a marquee, still visible today and listed as a French: Bâtiments de France building.

Many famous 20th-century artists made their debuts here, such as Yves Montand and Tino Rossi, or came to prominence here, such as Dalida, Maurice Chevalier, Félix Mayol and Fernandel, but not all were so lucky, as Marseilles audiences had a reputation for being ruthless.[2][4] The theatre was converted into a cinema in the early 1930s.

Closed during the Second World War, it enjoyed a resurgence of activity after the Liberation. Still, with competition from television in the late 1950s, it went bankrupt for the first time in 1964 before closing its doors for good on August 9, 1966, when it was bought by a furniture dealer, offering the public only the remains of a decrepit Art Nouveau-style sign.

The entrance to the Alcazar before its conversion into a library

Library conversion edit

On March 30, 2004, the Alcazar reopened as a municipal library with a regional vocation (French: bibliothèque municipale à vocation régionale or BMVR), replacing the Saint-Charles library. The project by architects Adrien Fainsilber and Didier Rogeon, drawn up in compliance with the law of 12 July 1985, known as the MOP law, sets out its "basic mission":[5]

"To build a major library in the protected area of Marseille's historic center is to create a major architectural event; an easily identifiable building that reflects its contents' specificity, modernity, and high-tech nature. Natural light floods the interior street; a glass roof covers its entire length; sunshades protect it and diffuse the light indirectly".

The press praised the event, noting that "of the 12 BMVRs in France, this is the largest in terms of public space ".[6][7]

Difficulties edit

Since December 2017, strike action has been attempting to raise the alarm about the lack of resources and staff.[8][9]

In 2023, the library was damaged by a fire caused by violence that followed the death of Nahel M.[10]

References edit

  1. ^ "Marseille Transports ::: Tramway Histoire". Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  2. ^ a b Jacques Cheyronnaud (2006). "Mémoires vives de l'Alcazar de Marseille (1857-1966)". AIBM, Lyon CNSMD. p. 12. Retrieved 5 June 2010.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Pierre Echinard, Louis Rouffe et l'école marseillaise de pantomime dans la deuxième moitié du XIX, in : Théâtre et spectacles hier et aujourd'hui, Époque moderne et contemporaine, Actes du congrès national des sociétés savantes (Avignon, 1990), CTHS Paris 1991, p. 547-560 ISBN 2-7355-0220-1.
  4. ^ Fantastique d’un lieu têtu, l’Alcazar de Marseille. AIBM. Compte-rendu des journées professionnelles 24-25 avril 2006. Lyon
  5. ^ Adrien Fainsilber. "AFA Ateliers". Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 16 June 2010.
  6. ^ Marseille l'Hebdo, 19 mai 2004.
  7. ^ Revue de presse janvier 2003/février 2004 (sélection), L'Alcazar-BMVR de Marseille
  8. ^ Gilles (Marsactu), Louise Fessard et Benoît. "A Marseille, les bibliothèques sont le symbole d'une gestion à la dérive". Mediapart. Retrieved 17 March 2019.<! -- auto-translated by Module:CS1 translator -->
  9. ^ ""A Marseille, on laisse pourrir les bibliothèques"". Le Monde. 15 March 2019. Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  10. ^ Yamak, Djaid (7 July 2023). "Riots in France: Cultural venues suffered damage across country". Le

Bibliography edit

  • Pierre Echinard, « Vie et mort de l'Alcazar » (p. 54 à 77), in Revue Marseille, No. 204 « L'Alcazar à livre ouvert », mars 2004.

External links edit