The collections: the memory of legendary institutions and artists
Even if stage costumes represented a most important heritage in terms of expenditure and property for the theatres, there had never been a real policy of protecting them until the creation of the center. They bear witness to the creativity of the costume designers that drew them and the know-how of the workshops that made them. They carry in them the traces of the artists that enhanced them on stage.
The oldest costumes date back to the 18th century. They are authentic clothes (male frock coats and waistcoats) given to or bought by the Comédie-Française after the French Revolution to be used in a repertory of 18th century inspiration (Marivaux, Beaumarchais…). In addition to these exceptional pieces, the collection includes mostly costumes from productions created since the second half of the 19th century. The project originated in 1995 when the Ministry of Culture and Communication solicited the major national institutions, the National Library of France (Performing Arts Department), the Comédie-Française and the National Opera of Paris to constitute the first collection made up of 8500 costumes for the opening of the CNCS.
The collection provided by the National Library of France reflects the richness and variety of the Performing Art Department’s collection. It includes the costumes of the Renaud-Barrault troop, the Théâtre de l’Atelier under the direction of Charles Dullin, the Théâtre du Campagnol directed by Jean-Claude Penchenat in addition to Philippe Guillotel’s costumes for the Albertville Olympic Games dramatized by Philippe Decouflé, in 1992.
The collection of the Comédie-Française covers three centuries of the history of this great theatre. The costumes were made in well-renowned sewing workshops notably for the historical clothing. Certain were created by Suzanne Lalique, Lila de Nobili or Thierry Mugler and worn by Sarah Bernhardt, Mounet-Sully or Jean Marais…
The collection of the National Opera of Paris includes 5000 opera and ballet costumes covering a period of a hundred and fifty years from 1872, with costumes designed by Bakst, Benois, Derain, Cocteau... Most of them were made in the sewing workshops of the opera and worn by all of the greatest stars, Serge Lifar, Yvette Chauviré, Maria Callas, Rudolf Nureyev, Régine Crespin, Luciano Pavarotti…
The CNCS houses an exceptional collection of around 2000 drawings and models of costumes created by Christian Lacroix for stage (opera, dance and theatre). The fashion designer Frank Sorbier has also donated his costume models for two operas, the Traviata and The Tales of Hoffmann.
A collection of stage scenery elements
The National Center of Stage Costumes and Scenography houses a collection of painted canvases, decorative elements and stage machinery (chassis, lifting equipment, masts, praticables, tools) dating from the middle of the 20th century. In this continuity, several contemporary dance troops have bequeathed some of their stage sets along with their costume donations.
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