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.
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.