When I was in Belfort I couldn’t see a show at the municipal theatre Le Granit, because it was closed for the summer vacation. But I did find out a few things about it.
For one thing, I learned that Le Granit is a scène nationale, meaning ‘national stage’.
I was highly impressed by this — but only until I did some clicking around (what we quaintly used to call ‘research’) and discovered that a scène nationale is not at all the same as a théâtre national or ‘national theatre’.
Both of these are designations accorded by the Ministry of Culture in Paris, but with very different degrees of exclusivity. There are only six ‘national theatres’ in France, five in Paris and one in Strasbourg. But there are over seventy ‘national stages’, including one in the ‘overseas department’ of Guadeloupe.
So far, I have written blog posts about two of these ‘national stages’, but without even knowing that they had this designation:
- The first was the Théâtre Liberté in Toulon, where I saw an intriguing play called Dis-leur que la verité est belle (Tell them that the Truth is beautiful), which is an ironic title because it turns out that the Truth is an ugly, unkempt old woman living alone in a cave.
- The second was the eighteenth-century municipal theatre in Besançon, not far from Belfort, where I only looked in through the glass door and was surprised to find that the interior had a decidedly 1950s appearance, having been re-constructed in that decade after a fire.
The theatre in Belfort was originally built in 1877-1878 as the Théâtre Municipal, a name that is still visible, engraved at the top of the south façade. An extensive exterior and interior rebuilding was carried out in 1929-1932.
Half a century later, the city commissioned the prominent architect Jean Nouvel to do a through restructuring and renovation of the theater.
Nouvel’s approach was to “open the theater towards the city” by removing “a haphazard series of alterations and additions” that had accumulated along the east side of the theatre facing the river Savoreuse. He replaced these with a glass front that “revealed the life of the building, its rehearsal rooms, brasserie and bar” and created “an absolute contrast between the old part of the theater and the new part that he created and designed entirely.” (Quotations from the theatre’s website.)
For other buildings designed or re-designed by Jean Nouvel, see my posts on:
- The “Institute of the Arab World” in Paris.
- The unmistakable opera house in Lyon.
- The controversial Philharmonie de Paris.
- The new concert house DR Koncerthuset in Copenhagen.
I’ve also been to his Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, but I haven’t posted anything about it yet. (Maybe next year.)
In the summer of 2020, while emerging from the first Corona lockdown, the theatre in Belfort changed its name again. Instead of Le Granit, its name since 1982, it became Le Grrranit, with three Rs as in Grrr.
Whether or not this will be a permanent name change I don’t know, but the Grande Salle is now La Grrrande Salle, the Galerie is now La Galerrrie, the Grotte is now La Grrrotte du Grrranit and even their website is now https://www.grrranit.eu/.
Old postcard views of the theatre on Carthalia.
My photos in this post are from 2016. I wrote the text in 2020.
See more posts on Belfort, France.