A First-Timer Experiences French Theatre

  • 18, Jun 2014
  • Parisian theatre
  • Ana Maria Correa

As a foreigner in France for the first time, I was fortunate to have my first week here feature French theatre. My experience with theatre in the past has been a few high school plays I have seen and a middle school play I participated in and although I do love a good high school play back in the U.S., that is of no comparison to what I saw here.
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From the minute you walk into the theatre, it’s like you’re in a different world. I’m used to big auditoriums as the location for plays, but here, I went into a seemingly normal Parisian building and entered what looked to be out of a movie. I had never seen anything like the Théâtre des Variétés in real life before. I walked up one of the stairs on the side and was taken to my seat. Everything around me was red and gold and the chandelier in the middle reminded me of the Phantom of the Opera (the movie). The theatre in itself was worth seeing, and having a great show to see in it seemed like an additional treat.

The lights turned off, the curtain opened and I watched The Magic Flute begin. I was introduced to Tamino and many of the main characters soon after the play began. The costumes are perfect for each of the characters and are used in a way that gives away some information about them. It would have been great for me to attend the version with the surtitles to properly understand the play since though I do know some French; it was challenging to follow the speaking pace of the actors. 

Music playing, acting & dancing on stage...

The music in the production was great. I had to pay close attention to the expressions of the characters, the setting and context since they were all in German, but it was extremely impressive to hear the actors sing and hit all the notes perfectly while also projecting out to the crowd. They did everything effortlessly, or at least it seemed that way to me. There were humorous parts throughout the play and the audience never lost interest. 

While the Queen of the Night wowed the audience with her singing, I took interest in the character of Monostatos. Everything about the way his character is portrayed works well to create his image as intended. Even his costume makes him seem unappealing and devious. He was truly repelling for me, like he was meant to be, as I watched the parts where he was present. It was definitely interesting to see how the actors embodied their roles so well and always conveyed each emotion clearly.

Another thing I really liked about the show is the quartet. I really enjoy watching people play instruments, and it was nice to get to appreciate them visually and not just from hearing them in the production. It made the experience seem more authentic and highlighted the importance of their roles, especially since they play almost throughout the entire show.

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A true insider's experience!

Overall, the experience was great to gain a better understanding of French culture and their appreciation for theatre. It was clear how much people like going to the theatre from seeing the crowd. The kids that went also seemed to really enjoy it, especially the more humorous parts of the play. An appreciation for theatrical arts is hard to find in my area of the U.S., but it was a great experience for me to do something completely French and take a break from the typical tourists attractions which I had gotten plenty of in my first few days here. I would love to see the surtitled version of the show, since that is more accessible to all, and would allow me to break through the language barrier. After seeing a show and experiencing it for myself, I now know why theatre is a part of many Parisians’ daily lives.