Théatre Graslin at Nantes!

Therefore in my continuing enjoyment of showcasing the best of architecture and history of my belle France, I bring you back to Nantes. The city is very well known to me as go there often and leave on my trips from its airport. Nantes is in old Bretagne now part of the region of Pays de la Loire in dept 44 Loire-Atlantique.

Let me tell you a bit more of its wonderful Theater Graslin at rue Moliére in Nantes.

The Graslin theater is the opera house of Nantes. Built at the end of the 18C. It is located on Place Graslin, between the streets of rue Molière, rue Scribe and rue  Corneille. The hall has a capacity of 784 seats. It is, with the Grand Théâtre d’Angers, one of the two places of residence of the Angers-Nantes Opéra joint syndicate.



It is an imposing building on a wonderful square, I go even inside the cafe for coffees and across La Cigale restaurant is top gastronomy of my belle France. Nice walks around here with beautiful architecture.


A bit of history I Like

In Nantes there was a tradition of theater and opera; the first works of this kind are presented in the city in 1687. The most famous room in the 18C was  the “Théâtre des Variétés”, located in rue Bignon-Lestard (today rue Rubens). But this room is considered too small, and the Academy of Music, founded in 1727, does not have a suitable place to give concerts. The demand is strong for the construction of a new auditorium. In 1755, plans to build this type of building  instead of a hall for wheat and fish located quai Brancas. Then it is conceivable to build a theater and a concert hall first south of the then proposed Place Royale, then on both sides of the rue Saint-Catherine (now rue du Couëdic) . But each time, the lack of available space prevents the realization of the project.

At the end of the 1770s, Jean-Joseph-Louis Graslin, general receiver of the king’s farms in Nantes for about ten years, decided to finance a large-scale private real estate operation, for a speculative purpose. He bought agricultural land, the “Bouvet ” and the “La Cagassais “, in order to build mansions and houses for the purpose of reselling them in a speculative manner. A theater, the hotel des Fermes, a museum, a  Hôtel, a new church Saint-Nicolas, and the Stock Exchange. However, the clergy opposed the construction of a theater near a place of worship. Only winners came of this effort was to get the construction, on the esplanade that will take the name of Place Graslin, the Hotel de France,  and the opening of a prestigious auditorium. The attraction of it was enough to move the center of gravity of the city towards the new district centered around a Grand Theater.

The model in vogue at the time when these plans were conceived is that of the Opéra of Lyon, built between 1753 and 1756. This model does not have a direct influence on the work of Nantes. It took over Graslin’s conception, in 1780, other new halls mark this period: the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, inaugurated that year; the Odeon Theater, under construction, inaugurated in 1782; the launch of the Palais-Royal Theater, inaugurated in 1784; and finally the Besançon Theater, begun in 1778 and inaugurated in 1784. In 1783, Jean-Joseph-Louis Graslin had excavations and grading done to allow the foundations to be installed, anticipating the agreement of the city office and that of the Royal Academy of Architecture, which were obtained in September 1784. The construction agreement is given in February 1785. The expected duration of work is then 18 months; they will last four years.

The building is ravaged by a fire on August 24, 1796 The fire takes place during a performance of Zémire and Azor, an opera by André Grétry.

In 1805, the School of Drawing, ancestor of the School of Fine Arts of Nantes, is housed there. In 1806, Napoleon I granted some French towns permission to maintain a permanent troop; Nantes is one of them. Following the Emperor’s visit of the city in 1808, the theater was rebuilt from 1811, and again inaugurated in 1813. The statues of the facade and the entrance hall between 1821 and 1829

On February 12, 1918, the Harlem Hellfighters orchestra of the 369th American Infantry Regiment under the direction of the arranger, composer and bandleader James Reese Europe, gives the first jazz concert on the European continent on steps then in the theater!!! The theater has a brief closure after the Nazis invasion  of 1940. But the occupation authority said it wants to see the institution run again, and Graslin is back in business from January 1941.

A bit on the construction details I like

Twelve steps lead to the vestibule, while eight Corinthian columns support the pediment. The eight antique-style statues overlooking each column, representing eight of the nine muses, date from the time of reconstruction. Stendhal, visibly unconquered by the harmony of the architectural ensemble, asks facetiously “which had the happiness to be forgotten”

The hall is decorated with two statues, representing Corneille and Molière, respectively to the left and to the right of the staircase of honor. On both sides of the hall, there are two low reliefs emblazoned with the coats of arms of Jean van Styrum, prefect of Loire-Inferieure, and Jean-Pierre Bachasson de Montalivet, Minister of the Interior. This heraldic decor, one of the only still in place dating from the First Empire, begins on the main facade with the imperial coat of arms of the City of Nantes and that of its mayor Jean-Baptiste Bertrand-Geslin. It’s an Italian-style theater inside a neoclassical building. The interior design is guided by considerations related to visibility and acoustics. Like most rooms of the time, that of Graslin is in the form of truncated oval.


The théatre Graslin, with great operas and musical presentation ,as one of the best in France. For the lineup read here at official webpage:

For how to get to the Graslin Theater and amenities read here:

And there you go folks arts culture and wonderful architecture in a great location. Hope you enjoy it as we do.  The Graslin Theater of Nantes!!!

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!



2 Comments to “Théatre Graslin at Nantes!”

  1. It’s been a long time since I visited Nantes, thanks for the interesting post. For me Nantes is like a ‘petit’ Paris…

    Liked by 1 person

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