The Imperial Theatre

A historic agreement was sealed between France and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in Fontainebleau on 27 April 2007. 150 years after the inauguration of the Imperial Theatre, an extraordinary restoration project was initiated thanks to the generosity of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates. In 12 years and 10 million euros time the work of safeguarding and enhancing this architectural masterpiece of the Second Empire will have been completed.

The Imperial Theatre: the last testimony of a court theatre

During Napoleon III and Eugenie's first trip to Fontainebleau in 1853 a decision was made to build a new theatre. Between 1853 and 1854, Hector Lefuel successfully designed a 400-seat hall that was inaugurated in 1857. The combination of upholstered silks, floral carpets and golden ornaments creates a both an exciting and comfortable ambiance. Directly inspired by Queen Marie-Antoinette’s theatre at the Trianon Palace, it is the bears testament to a court theatre that has preserved all its historic features, including one of the most important collection of stage sets that exist in France.

The Renaissance of a Masterpiece: an exemplary restoration

Five years of study allowed curators and architects to draw up plans for this ambitious project divided into two phases. Completed in April 2014, the first phase of work focused on the restoration of the auditorium, the vestibule and the Imperial Foyer. The second phase was aimed at restoring the stage and its machinery as well as the peripheral spaces and upper levels.
The restoration programme focused on preserving original materials. Nearly 80% have been preserved, both decor and furniture. The Fontainebleau theatre is now a unique museum dedicated to the performing and decorative arts of the Second Empire.

This restoration illustrates what path the castle has been going down over the past 10 years. Our mission is to preserve this remarkable piece heritage and make it accessible to the widest possible audience with the help of sponsors and public or private partners,

Jean-François Hebert, président du château de Fontainebleau

A jewel given back to the public

The theatre and the Imperial Foyer have been open to the public since 2014. Additionally, since 2019, the public have been able to view the sets on the stage during the summer season. In the winter, the stage and adjoining salons will be accessible. It reveals the secrets of how a theatre operated in the Second Empire. Once in while, we have live drama visits to help capture those splendours of the imperial parties.

The preservation of cultural heritage is of paramount importance for the passing on the history of our civilizations to future generations. We are pleased to announce with the full reopening of the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Theatre. An outstanding restoration project illustrating our determination to support the world's cultural heritage and bear witness to our collective story of humanity while building a united international community concentrated around culture.

Son Excellence Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, président du Département de la culture et du tourisme d'Abu Dhabi

The Restoration of the Imperial Theatre - Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Theatre

The restoration in images...

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Opening hours

The castle

The castle is open every day except Tuesday, January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.
From October to March: 9:30 am to 5:00 pm (last access at 4:15 pm).
From April to September: 9.30 am to 6 pm (last access at 5.15 pm).

Wearing a mask is compulsory from the age of 11.

The tour is fully accessible, except for the Napoleon I and Chinese museums. As a compensation, the exit is through the Oval Court, exceptionally open for the occasion.

It is not necessary to reserve a visit slot for the castle or the gardens.

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