A History of Théâtre du Châtelet

  • 7 janvier 2020
  • La scène parisienne
  • Jocelyn Wensjoe

Théâtre du Châtelet can be found favorably located in the very center of the city in the 1st arrondissement near frequented landmarks and general hot spots such as the Notre- Dame church and the Seine river which normally crowded with tourists and locals during summertime. It is enriched with history and a captivating background that has evolved throughout the years and has now become the beloved theatre we all know and love today. It can be said that it is Opera Garnier’s direct competition, that’s how big Théâtre du Châtelet’s name has grown. We will give you the scoop to a brief storyline that integrates everything you need to know about the iconic theatre. A little teaser, we bet you didn’t know that within Théâtre du Châtelet ‘s walls there is a secret night club?


Largest Venue during its time

Formerly recognized as Théâtre Impérial du Châtelet the theater had been requested to be built by Baron Haussmann, the man in charge of renewing the whole city of Paris and whose architectural designs within Parisian homes stand until this day. 1862 was the first-day Théâtre du Châtelet opened its doors to the public and it was a huge success. In the 18th century, this was considered the largest theatre and opera house in the city, consisting of 2,500 seats. Haussmann, of course, felt the theatre needed better marketing and claimed that it could host 3,600 spectators, everyone in the city of Paris was ecstatic and mesmerized by the glorious design. It was praised by theatre goers considering the acoustic in the main performing halls were at a perfect pitch. The sound of every show could easily be heard throughout the room thanks to the design of its parquet flooring and dome glass roof.


Throughout the years Théâtre du Châtelet has undergone several setbacks, starting with its closure in 1870 during the Franco- Prussian War which dealt with conflict between the Second French Empire and the Third French Republic, closure in 1971 due to bankruptcy, Restoration in 1979 and then again in 2017 but let’s not get too ahead.

Many highly appraised names in the theatre world have performed on the Théâtre du Châtelet stage such as Shirley Horn an American jazz singer who recorded I Love You, Paris in the theatre itself, Gustav Mahler conducted his first Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in France in 1900, Dance performance by Loïse Fuller who can also be found drawn in some of Toulouse Lautrec’s most famous works of art demonstrating The Serpentine Dance, and famous composer Félix Weingartner who conducted all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies in 1911. Fun fact, Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days “Le Tour du Monde en 80 Jours” was displayed in the playhouse in 1880 and it performed 2492 times until it was permanently closed in 1940 by orders of Nazi occupation. The show goes on! Around the World in 80 Days is still being displayed from time to time in other theatres, but no longer in Théâtre du Châtelet. The hilarious play is still a crowd’s favorite.


Copyright: Paris Update ©

New Everything 

In 2017 Théâtre du Châtelet was closed to audience members in order to renovate the entire location, after all, it has been around since 1862. It was time for a makeover. After so much waiting for the anticipated new and improved Théâtre du Châtelet opened its doors once again in 2019. To celebrate the production crew prepared the festival and welcomed all of Paris to accompany them in the grand opening. For a couple of days, tickets to watch a show in the theatre were discounted making it accessible to all audience members. Also, for the first time ever Théâtre du Châtelet participated in the European Heritage Days known in French as Journées du Patrimoine.


Copyright: Théâtre du Châtelet ©

During its renovation Théâtre du Châtelet got a new look, and what goes well with a new a look? A new logo! You’ll notice that the previous logo was plainer looking, now it comprises a more modern look to attract attention and provide them with a brand identity. It definitely reached its goal! The new logo was split into 3 lines and it reads as it sounds, now it spells Châ-te-let.


The new theatre now includes 20,000 meters of painted walls recreating a neo-renaissance design, technical work has also been carried out, the number of seats has been amplified, the gallery rooms have been renamed, and it is now asbestos-free and has been rewarded the upmost important safety certification, the SIL 3 label. The new and improved Théâtre du Châtelet resembles that of the 19th century.

An American in Paris

An American in Paris

Ever since its re-opening tickets for different shows in the venue have been selling out like hotcakes, with only a couple of weeks out for purchase in December 2019 one of their most popular shows “An American in Paris” was sold out for a whole month within only one week from its release date. A lot of spectators anticipated their ticket purchase and bought them either ahead of time or only a few days after they were out on sale. An American in Paris is a musical production created by the theatre itself, once it hit the big apple, New York, it was awarded 4 prizes during the Tony Awards in 2015. Its first release in Paris was imminent, it brought in 71, 500 international and local spectators putting into consideration that the play is 100% in English. Unfortunately, tickets to An American in Paris are no longer available since it was sold out in such a short period, but its competition still has a couple of tickets available for sale. The other Broadway Hit Musicals Funny Girl and Ghost have availability for a couple more bookings and will be exhibited for a few more dates.


A Hidden Night Club

A night club in a 19th-century theatre? Is this real? Yes, it is! It did not kick-off to a good start, but Théâtre du Châtelet thought it would be innovative to transform a room inside the location into a night club. Offering music choices such as hip-hop and electro Joséphine, an exclusive club not known by many opened its doors to the public in October of 2019. The club is set-up on two floors and has live concerts and performances by DJs. The theatre truly adapted to today's culture, it supports rising artists and the LGBT community. As previously mentioned, it did not start off pretty well. A structural flaw was discovered during a hip- hop night at Théâtre du Châtelet. The floors seemed to shake from all the rowdiness in the party, revealing a damaged ceiling in a floor below the night club. Having had spent 31.5 million Euros to renovate the whole theatre it was a shame to see that the ceiling had been degraded. The issue was solved, and the party goes on. Joséphine Night Club is still open for business.

Handel's Saul

Trending shows on display

If you are not just looking to soak in the beautiful architecture Théâtre du Châtelet provides, you can opt to watch a classic show! Soon on the 31st of January 2020, Handel’s Saul an unusual oratorio is will be out on display and it is highly recommended by critics. Jam-packed with murderous plot twists, power, destruction, and envy this was one of Frideric Handel’s most dramatic yet powerful works of art.

Book tickets to Handel's Saul


Copyright: VannityFair ©

Creation of its very own eau de toilette “Perfume”

Not only famous celebrities and big brand perfumes do this but for the very first time ever Théâtre du Châtelet became the very first theatre to market their very own perfume brand. Launching a fragrance by the name of Odor of the Théâtre du Châtelet act I, this perfume has caused a positive commotion amongst theatre fans with such a bizarre yet innovative idea. If you were wondering what the fragrance smelled like it does not smell like an auditorium, it has a combination of floral and wood unisex odor. Like all Parisian designed brands, the perfume has an estimated value of €120 for a 200 ml spray bottle.


Found this article intriguing? Check out the history of other Parisian theatres:

A History of Paris’ Théâtre Gaîté Montparnasse
A History of Paris’ Théâtre de la Huchette
A History of Paris Théâtre Ranelagh
A History of Paris’ Théâtre Edouard VII
A History of Paris' Théâtre Mogador