Theatres Along the Trail, on the Way to the Mediterranean Sea
By Liam Klenk
Last year, during the prolonged downtime due to the pandemic, I went for a long hike through Switzerland and France to the Mediterranean Sea. As a stage manager, I longed to be backstage again. So, every theatre I saw along the way was a special memento. As such, it was also a trip through time, because I encountered theatres from all eras. Here are only a few examples of the beautiful performance spaces I saw.
Benno Besson Theatre in Yverdon-Les-Bains
Yverdon-Les-Bains is a beautiful town in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. The old town is a sight to behold. And, even though all cultural venues were closed, it was clear that one will not get bored here on a regular trip sans Covid.
The Benno Besson theatre is the oldest and largest theatre in Yverdon-les-Bains. It offers a varied, high-quality programme of classical and modern productions.
Built in 1898, based on the model of the Casino of Monte Carlo, the freshly renovated Benno Besson theatre owes its current name to the famous Swiss stage director and native of Yverdon-les-Bains.
Just as I got to the end of the Swiss Jura region, I entered the little town of Bellegarde in France, on the border to Switzerland. There, I found this pink beauty.
It is a very small venue that has been renovated with great care. I wonder, what plays are usually performed here? Who knows, now that regulations are less strict, I might just pass by one day to see a performance.
The Arles Amphitheatre
The Arles Amphitheatre (Arènes d’Arles) is a Roman amphitheatre in the southern French town of Arles. It is probably the most prominent tourist attraction from this city which thrived in the ancient Roman Empire.
Built in 90 AD, the amphitheatre held over 20’000 spectators of chariot races and gladiator hand-to-hand battles.
Nowadays, it draws smaller crowds for bullfighting during the Arles Festival as well as for performances of many plays and concerts during the summer.
When I walked through Arles, the seating and stage for summer performances had been already installed. Yet all had come to a halt due to the pandemic. Hopefully this summer, shows will resume.
Comedy Theatre Montpellier
The Théâtre Le Point Comédie is a small theatre / comedy club in the center of Montpellier, located 5 minutes walking distance from the Place de La Comédie, and surrounded by nice restaurants. It offers comedy performances, stand-up shows, and experimental theatre.
It’s easy to miss when walking through own, but definitely should not be missed. Make it a mission to find it and go see a show if you are ever in Montpellier.
Montpellier’s La Comédie
This opera building blew me away with its beauty, as did the town square on which it prominently stands. I was also lucky to arrive just before the second lockdown when the opera briefly reopened to the public. The two performances I saw were of the highest quality in every regard.
The Opéra National de Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon was established in 1755 and was granted the status of “National Opera” in 2002 by the French Ministry of Culture.
The company uses two main buildings for its performances. The Opéra Comédie is the older and smaller one. It is built in Italian style and opened in 1888. The venue houses the 1’200-seat main auditorium plus the 350-seat Salle Molière concert hall.
Since 1990, the company also performed at the larger, 2’000-seat Opéra Berlioz in the Le Corum arts complex.
The Carcassonne Amphitheatre
Carcassonne in itself is already worth the visit since it is one of the oldest medieval cities inside a fortress still standing today.
Within the walls of the fortress is the Grand Theatre. With a stage that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages.
The Grand Théâtre de la Cité is a huge amphitheatre that can welcome more than 3’000 spectators. The dressing rooms of the artists are in the towers on both sides of the stage.
The Grand Théâtre enjoyed great fame in the beginning of the twentieth century. Carcassonne was then a very fashionable place where the international high society liked to stop between a vacation in Biarritz and another on the Côte d’Azur, the French Riviera. The most prestigious names came here… Sarah Bernhardt among others.
The Theatre de la Mer in Sète
Such a great open-air theatre overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. A magical place where seagulls and fans can attend all sort of music concerts during summertime. One of the entertainment venues to not miss in the South of France. Simply stunning.