|Canebière and the bourse|
Canebière is a wide thoroughfare that leads from the Vieux Port straight into the heart of the city of Marseille. Lined with beautiful and tall Napoleonic buildings, you find shops and hotels at street level and apartments on the floors above. The street furniture - street lamps, etc. - are equally as striking as the buildings.
As we leave the port, on the left, you will find the bourse. Built between 1852 and 1860, it is now the home of the naval museum and is the headquarters of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the city. The building overlooks a large square on the opposite side of Canebière. And do check out the boulangerie/pâtisserie in the square, you can get a rather lovely tarte-au-citron here.
Canebière runs straight and true for about a kilometre and if you want to shop then by all means continue. But, I'm taking a left onto Cours Belsunce because I know, about halfway along, there's something I particularly want to see.
On the right is what now remains of the old music hall. Built in 1857 and decorated in a Moorish style, the theatre thrived. As I stand here looking at the portico, I can imagine the noise, the laughter, the music, the jostling of the 2000 strong audience and I can almost smell the wine and the beer. Given the opportunity I would have taken to the stage and silently replayed a snippet of one my previous roles, glancing up at the galleries or across the stalls area as I run through the speech in my head. I've always thought it a great privilege to be able to recreate a character and make that person live on the stage for the audience. As an actor, I can be in two places, centuries, personalities at once. Today, alas, that opportunity is not available. On March 30th, 2004, following extensive remodelling, the theatre opened as one of 12 municipal libraries created by statute in cities across the whole country.
|The remains of the Alcazar-Lyrique|
Originally called Alcazar-Lyrique, the theatre first opened on October 10th, 1857. In its early days, and under the direction of Etienne Demoulins, the Alcazar built its reputation with summer shows in the gardens, and by welcoming to its stage celebrities from the surrounding area and from Paris. In the 1860s and 1870s, the theatre became renowned for pantomime. And yes, I know we Brits think that pantomime is something that is very peculiarly English, but its early origins were European. Here at the Alcazar, fabulous and world-renowned mime artists such as Charles Deburau, Louis Rouffe and Séverin, have trodden the boards of the stage that was once here. So, perhaps you can understand my disappointment at not being able to follow in their footsteps just for a moment or two.Between its heyday and conversion to a library, the theatre had an interesting history. In 1873 a fire destroyed the interior, but only four months later the building re-opened. In 1889 it was refurbished, and the portico that we are standing in front of was added. In the 1930s the venue became a cinema, and during the 1939-45 conflict, it remained closed until the Free French forces liberated the city in 1944. Post-war, the theatre continued to provide entertainment right up until the 1960s when it went dark for the very last time on August 9th, 1966. As I remain standing here, I have to mourn the loss of such a magnificent edifice to architecture and stagecraft.
You can read more about Marseille here and further information about the next Jacques Forêt mystery is here