The distinguishing features of Place Stalingrad, known until 1946 as Place du Pont given its proximity to the Pont de Pierre, include t...

Théâtre Alcazar: where the clock stopped in 1967

The distinguishing features of Place Stalingrad, known until 1946 as Place du Pont given its proximity to the Pont de Pierre, include the large, modern sculpture of a lion (designed by the French artist Xavier Veilhan with a little help from some computer software), one of the seven cast-iron Wallace drinking fountains to be spotted around the city, and a building which now comprises 13 luxury flats and a ground-floor restaurant. This building used to be known as Théâtre Alcazar
The original mid-19th-century plans were to build a large-scale theatre, although it was feared a new right-bank establishment would rival the Grand Théâtre across the Garonne. When operations began, on May 30th 1861, the new venue - designed by the architect Braches - was therefore a more low-key cabaret or “café-concert”, with tables set out in front of the stage drawing patrons for whom the experience was as much about drinking and smoking as it was about taking in a show. 

From 1872 until 1873, the director of the Alcazar was the influential Charles Debureau, a mime who lived much of his life in the shadow of his illustrious father Jean-Gaspard Debureau (immortalised as Baptiste the Pierrot in Marcel Carné’s 1945 film “Children of Paradise”). Some say that, in truly dramatic fashion, Debureau junior died at the end of a performance at the Alcazar

Come 1892, the venue was converted into a bona fide theatre (complete with a dome-shaped roof) by the architect Pierre Durand. During the ensuing Belle Époque, L’Alcazar went on to become one of the most popular venues in the city, hosting performances by a young Maurice Chevalier and countless light entertainment acts such as the local comedian Éloi Ouvrard, whose posters promised “2,500 bursts of laughter in 30 minutes” (2 500 éclats de rire en 30 minutes). 

The scene in the early years of the 20th century...
... and in 2012!

From the 1920s onwards, the theatre struggled and a large-scale accident was narrowly averted on one occasion when some bulky scenery collapsed onto the stage when setting up for performances of the Franz Lehár operetta “The Land of Smiles” (“Das Land des Lächelns”). In 1967, the curtain came down on the final shows to be put on at L’Alcazar: the Léo Delibes opera “Lakmé” and Robert Planquette’s light opera “Les Cloches de Corneville”.

Although the name continues to lives on, with the neighbouring bar trading to this day as “L'Alcazar”, the venue itself was turned into a cinema, L’Éden. It was later transformed once again into a dancehall, Le Rétro. The building’s current (since 2010) residential incarnation can be attributed to the real estate promoter Norbert Fradin.

The façade looks cleaner and fresher than ever and still boasts many clues to its theatrical past, such as the sculptures of masked performers, artists and pipers.

But sadly, the clock which presided over proceedings at the very top of the building is long gone, with an empty circle now where the dial once was. Times have changed...


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