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Association Française pour le Rayonnement du Théâtre du Château de Drottningholm

Communication 2002 Rosmira fedele 2001 Acting Styles 2000 Gjörwell
Emerging Acting Styles around Voltaire - page 1/5 11/2001

September 2001

Anonymous engraving after Fesch & Whirsker - Scene from Crébillon's Rhadamisthe & Zénobie

City of Leiden
Académie Desprez - University of Leiden - Leidse Schouwburg

The Leiden Theatre Perspective 1705-2005
International Symposium 2001
Eighteenth Century European Acting Styles

Gilbert Blin
Rémy-Michel Trotier
Olivier Till – Philippe Rolland

Emerging Acting Styles around Voltaire
Workshop – Lecture – Video projection – Demonstration

Olivier Till’s research on costumes
supported by the
LEKAIN travel grant (in ) of the Académie Desprez

Philippe Rolland’s research on Voltaire & Desprez
supported by the
BRUNETTI study grant of the Académie Desprez

Rémy-Michel Trotier’s research on French declamation
supported by the
BACILLY study grant of the Académie Desprez

The Académie Desprez extends heartfelt thanks to the
Ambassade de France aux Pays-Bas


Emerging Acting Styles around Voltaire

Every important European theatre of the XVIIIth century welcomed French spoken theatre performances. Voltaire’s Sémiramis and Zaïre were performed in Drottningholm, whilst his Tancrède and Mahomet appeared in Leiden; Olympie was presented in both places.

Voltaire was an important author in Leiden theatre life at that time; in 1774, of the five evenings which brought in the highest income of the season, four included plays by Voltaire. And not only Dutch actors, but also French companies came to present his works – performed in French, according to a custom which would continue with Talma.

Very naturally studying Voltaire is one important possible step in the celebration of Leiden’s theatre. But in order to understand -and maybe reconstruct- the conditions of performance at the time, it is necessary to turn again to Drottningholm: the only working XVIIIth century theatre extant today. The place, as it is, enables us to discover all the elements of theatrical practice, as they were. This is the programme the Académie Desprez refers to, when undertaking reconstruction connected to the Age of Enlightment.

Exploring the life of Voltaire's favourite actor makes the programme richer than ever; Gustave III, when travelling to Paris, saw Lekain on stage in 1771 performing Néron in Britannicus; after that, the professional performer and the royal actor kept on interpreting the same parts: Rhadamiste in the tragedy of Crébillon, Bayard in Belloy’s Gaston & Bayard and Voltaire’s Gengis Khan in L’Orphelin de la Chine. And Gustave III’s favorite architect, Louis-Jean Desprez, painted tremendous visions of Lekain as Ninias in Sémiramis.

In response to Dr Cobi Bordewijk’s invitation, members of the Académie Desprez present a lecture about Lekain, and a workshop to experiment with the reforms in acting styles at his time. A video projec-tion shows a contextual example of a performance in Drottningholms Slottsteater. Finally, the workshop opens its doors to the participants in the Second International Symposium of the Leiden Theatre Perspective.

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