PARIS — The Théâtre de la Ville and the Théâtre du Châtelet, two of the most important theaters in Paris, will close for extensive renovations at the end of the 2016 season, darkening the houses for one and a half to two years.
The theaters, which face each other on the Place du Châtelet, next to the Seine in the heart of the city, were designed by Gabriel Davioud and constructed between 1860 and 1862. Both have been important to theater and dance history. Sarah Bernhardt directed the Théâtre de la Ville (at the time, named the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt) and appeared there in her most important roles between 1899 and her death in 1923, and the Ballets Russes presented its first European seasons at the Théâtre du Châtelet.
The theaters have different artistic mandates. Châtelet, where “An American in Paris” is currently playing to sold-out houses, tends to program musicals and concerts; the Théâtre de la Ville is an important destination for international theater, contemporary dance and world music. Both receive large subsidies from the city of Paris: 17 million euros (about $20.5 million) a year at the Théâtre du Châtelet, which has an annual audience of around 320,000; and 10 million euros at the Théâtre de la Ville, which has about 260,000 spectators each year.
The announcement of the long closures, made this week by Bruno Julliard, the mayoral deputy responsible for culture, did not specify what arrangements would be made for the employees of both theaters (130 at the Châtelet, 110 at the Théâtre de la Ville, according to a report in Le Figaro). Although Mr. Julliard did not offer details, he said that the closures “did not mean that programming would come to a complete stop.”
He did not give figures for the renovations, which fall within a 100-million-euro budget for refurbishment allocated to the two theaters and a number of museums.
The Théâtre de la Ville, directed by Emmanuel Demarcy-Mota, has a second, much smaller house in the 18th Arrondissement, but its larger productions are unlikely to be shown there. The Théâtre du Châtelet, directed by Jean-Luc Choplin, is likely to have a harder time finding alternative venues, particularly as another Paris theater, the Opéra Comique, will also be closed for renovation for at least 18 months from mid-2015.