5/14 The Salle des Machines (Palais des Tuileries)
After the fire at the Palais Royal’s first theatre, the Royal Academy of Music relocated to the Palais des Tuileries, where it took up temporary residence in the Salle des Machines. Built during the reign of Louis XIV, the exceptional size of the space allowed Germain Soufflot and Jacques Gabriel to remodel it to accommodate 1,500 spectators in an area originally occupied by the theatre’s stage alone. The two architects reduced a space that was much longer than it was wide to create a stage and auditorium more adapted to opera. The conversion work took eight months and the theatre was inaugurated on January 24, 1764 with the premiere performance of Rameau’s Castor et Pollux. Due to its dimensions, the theatre offered a myriad of possibilities for the complex stage machinery systems. The dancer Madeleine Guimard and the songstress Sophie Arnould had a particularly illustrious career on the stage of this theatre.
In 1770, the Opera left the Tuileries and returned to the Palais Royal where a new theatre had been built. Once the move was complete, the Comédie-Française moved into the space vacated by the Opera. Although its time at the Palais des Tuileries’s Salle des Machines was of short duration, it left a lasting impression on the Opera, which retained the terms “côté cour” (“courtyard side” for stage left) and “côté jardin” (“garden side” for stage right). In effect, the theatre’s north-south aspect had the stage facing due north thus offering exits into the courtyard on the left side and into the Tuileries Gardens on the right.