Bêtes de scène

1st of July – 5th of November

To play a beast, one must don the coat! For its inauguration, the cncs hunted out an enchanted bestiary, where the most meticulous of costumes with neither a feather nor a hair out of place accompanied those portraying the shrewdest, the most outlandish and the most whimsical of evocations. In the kingdom of the deep, mermaids mingled with Platée in his frog suit, whilst polar bears danced on the floe with penguins. A joyful eruption of costumer talent and dressmaking inventiveness, since, as we all know, when animals start to talk, sing and dance, the fairytale has already begun!

From the XVIth century’s court ballets to the Fables de La Fontaine, staged on last season by Robert Wilson for the Comédie-Française, humans have had to share stages with animals. Show is the privileged place for enchantments, and stage is already a magic place. So do not be surprised to see animals talking, dancing and singing … This is theatre. To look like an animal, you have to wear its fur. Among all these models and costumes, you will find the most meticulously made costumes, on which you could hardly find any missing hair or feather, mixed with costumes made in the most clever, unreal and eccentric way.

The representation of any animal on a stage, even pets, makes of it some kind of imaginary creature. When animals are personified by humans, they become some kind of moving or frightening imaginary bestiary.

During the XVIth and XVIIth centuries, the first court ballets used to show some burlesque and imaginary creature, often with animals. From the day it was created by Louis XIV, the Opéra mixes supernatural and magic to mythology. During the next century, fantasy broke onto small stages like the Théâtres de la Foire, the Comédie-Italienne or the Opéra-Comique. The most vivid imagination gets common, far from the strong strictness of the Académie royale de Musique. Tales inspire libretti, especially Charles Perrault’s ones.

Some themes are subject to variations, like Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, or the Chat botté ones. The fashion gets phenomenal with the stages of the Boulevard du Temple, the Gaîté, the Ambigu, or the Porte Saint-Martin. Specialists’ teams start organizing shows on a larger scale, using known effects and tricks, and even invent new ones: on stage appear fairy kingdoms, metamorphosis or change of costume at sight… The audience loves it !

Fairies invade stages, and animals are common people in their kingdom. They were included in all types of show: ballet, comic opera, dramas or revues. And when realism ultimately chased out fairies, their water sprites and butterflies’ retinue followed them. The XIXth century believes in progress; cities and towns develop, industries blossom. The disillusion of the modern world cannot match romance of the unreal anymore. But animals will survive realistic and social theatre as the dream spirit is in them. They even personify the resistance to the banality of everyday life. “Les Oiseaux” by Aristophanes, “L’Enfant et les Sortilèges” by Ravel, or “Chantecler” by Edmond Rostand have been interpreted again; the imaginary world of Grandville has been adapted for the stage with “Peines de Cœur d’une Chatte anglaise” and “Cats”; famous classic ballets like “ Swan Lake”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Le Chat botté” are still performed… It all shows how directors, choreographers and wardrobe masters like this subject, as audience does, despite them being used to cinema’s special effects.

This exhibition has been specially supported by the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Opéra national de Paris.

Commissariat de l’exposition et direction artistique

Claudie Gastine

Scenographer

Born in Marseille, Claudie Gastine studied drawing at the Fine Arts school there after passing her baccalaureate. She moved to Paris in 1960, and for a year followed a theatrical decoration course at the École de la rue Blanche (which became the ENSAT, National School for...

Scenographer

Born in Marseille, Claudie Gastine studied drawing at the Fine Arts school there after passing her baccalaureate. She moved to Paris in 1960, and for a year followed a theatrical decoration course at the École de la rue Blanche (which became the ENSAT, National School for Theatre Arts and Techniques). In 1962, she became part of a team of decorators trained by Suzanne Lalique, director of the Comédie Française, who was preparing an exhibition at the Château de Versailles. During this first job, she met Lila de Nobili, Jean-Marie Simon, as well as Lydia and Rostislav Doboujinsky who would introduce her to the world of performing art.

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Yves Bernard

Lighting designer

Scenographer and lighting designer. Technical director of Patrice Chéreau from 1967 to 1984, he has worked in the theatre – since 1976 – on set designs for Bruno Boëglin, Philippe Adrien, Gérard Desarthe, Gao Xingjian, Alain Pralon and Muriel Mayette, and for...

Lighting designer

Scenographer and lighting designer. Technical director of Patrice Chéreau from 1967 to 1984, he has worked in the theatre – since 1976 – on set designs for Bruno Boëglin, Philippe Adrien, Gérard Desarthe, Gao Xingjian, Alain Pralon and Muriel Mayette, and for the opera for Chrisitan Gangneron. Lighting designer for Patrice Chéreau, Bob Wilson, Andreï Serban, Matthias Langhoff, or Zhang Yimu in Beijing. Decorator for Jean-Paul Goude for the bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989, then for the millennium celebrations in 2000. He has also made lighting for the Eiffel Tower for the fireworks on 14th July 2005.

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