Vichy Opera House: an art nouveau theater

Total floral decor

By Vichy Opera House

View of the Vichy Opera House gallery (2017)Vichy Opera House

Under the roof of the Vichy Opera House

The construction of the Vichy Opera House was the result of an innovative architectural program. To fulfill the wishes of the Compagnie Fermière, who wanted the theater to be built quickly and economically, architects Charles Le Cœur and Lucien Woog proposed building the theater hall within a metal framework which would itself be surrounded by an outer stone wall. The structure would be finished with wood and plaster to decorate the interior of the performance hall.

Interior of the Vichy Opera House (2017)Vichy Opera House

True to the avant-garde approach, Charles Le Cœur enlisted the help of three young associates: the painter-decorator Léon Rudnicki, the sculptor Pierre Seguin, and the metalworker Émile Robert.

Interior of the Vichy Opera House (2017)Vichy Opera House

Breaking from traditional imagery, the talented artists suggested decor inspired by Art Nouveau and of an astonishing cohesion. The combination of floral decor and yellow and ivory tones gave the theater a unique character.

A box and the first balcony in the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

Decor en relief

The ornamentalist Pierre Seguin created the en relief theater decor. Accentuated in gold, his staff friezes adorned and outlined the structure of the performance hall.

First balcony guardrail in the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

The guard rail on the first balcony displays a chain of roses en relief, blended into successive arches.

The stage pediment in the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

The frame and the stage pediment combine with perfect symmetry the repetitive compositions of laces and foliage.

The dome in the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

The symmetrical ceiling decor

The luminous rose window is encircled by a wreath of bells. The recessed part is perforated and displays a motif of lyres: a universal symbol of music.

One of the arches supporting the vault in the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

In another example of decor en relief, the decoration on the arches supporting the room's vault was systematically produced using molds made in a workshop.

Base of the vault in the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

Theater decor: between harmony and originality

All of the painted decor in the theater hall and its perimeter is the work of the young artist Léon Rudnicki. Originally known for his illustration work, Rudnicki had never worked on interiors before Vichy.

First-floor gallery opening out onto the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

Geometric panels

In just two years, he delivered his vision of a theater interior, often breaking with the aesthetic traditions of other venues. The clearest example of this is his use of a new range of colors, where yellow replaces red and becomes the dominant shade.

Door 1, connecting the Vichy Opera House hall and the first-floor gallery (2017)Vichy Opera House

Instead of traditional imagery, he opted mainly for geometric and floral decoration. Executed using the stenciling technique, his compositions run fluidly along the walls and ceilings of the theater.

East vestibule, leading from the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

The only exceptions to the color yellow are the blue-gray and green tones, which perfectly match the wisteria and cherry patterns and are reserved solely for the vestibules framing the entrance hall.

Artist portraits on the Vichy Opera House ceiling (2017)Vichy Opera House

The Vichy Opera House guardians

In the performance hall, four large lyres decorated with masks adorn the pendentives of the dome. Photograph (left to right): Réjane, Sarah Bernhardt, Coquelin the elder.

Artist portraits on the Vichy Opera House ceiling (2017)Vichy Opera House

These masks, depicting the faces of contemporary artists during the construction of the theater, were created based on photographs by Léon Rudnicki and were the only concession to traditional decor. Photograph (left to right): Cora Laparcerie, Meyriane Héglon, Mounet-Sully.

Artist portraits on the Vichy Opera House ceiling (2017)Vichy Opera House

They are depicted as theatrical masks, wrapped around each lyre. Photograph (left to right): Cléo de Mérode, Émilienne d’Alençon, Albert Lambert fils.

Artist portraits on the Vichy Opera House ceiling (2017)Vichy Opera House

These faces are painted on mounted canvas and nailed to the dome. They are decorated with pearls and gemstones to reflect the light. Photograph (from left to right): Jean-Baptiste Faure(?), Rose Caron, Andrée Mégard.

Stage pediment in the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

On the pediment above the stage, Léon Rudnicki framed the dates of the construction of the first music hall 1864 and the new theater “1901” with two Japanese-inspired white peacocks.

West vestibule, starting at the Rue de Parc entrance and leading to the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

Floral metalwork

The metalwork was created by Émile Robert who, like his colleagues in sculpture and painting, created decor imbued with naturalism.

The main façade of the Vichy Opera House (2017)Vichy Opera House

On the main facade of the theater, the three large glass doors are bordered with flowers in subtle reference to the thermal spa.

Large door on the main façade of the Vichy Opera House (2017)Vichy Opera House

Consisting of 17 rectangular panels, this ironwork depicts the motifs of poppies and chrysanthemums.

West vestibule, starting at the Rue de Parc entrance and leading to the Vichy Opera House hall (2017)Vichy Opera House

To access the theater from the Rue de Parc, the marquise door also displays a flowery pattern. It opens out onto the vestibule with a double staircase, the handrail of which is made up of arums.

One of the four first-floor gallery staircases on the garden side of the Vichy Opera House (2017)Vichy Opera House

Around the room, the four staircases serving the two gallery levels depict sequences of flowers with spirals, wreaths, and straight lines.

One of the four first-floor gallery staircases on the garden side of the Vichy Opera House (2017)Vichy Opera House

In all of his work, the metalworker combined the wrought iron technique with the finesse of embossed sheet metal to depict flowers and leaves.

You too can wander through the opera house in search of other Art Nouveau details!

Credits: Story

Story by Vichy Culture and the Musée de l'Opéra de Vichy

Museum website: www.operavichy-musee.com
Vichy Opera House website: www.opera-vichy.com

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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