Theatre de la Rue Saint Pierre

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Theatre de la Rue Saint Pierre or Le Spectacle de la Rue Saint Pierre, was the first (French-speaking) theatre in New Orleans in Louisiana, active in 1792-1810. It opened in 1792 and was known to the Spanish-speaking citizens as El Coliseo and to the French-speaking citizens, La Salle Comedie. It was described as a small building of native lumber near the center of the city. It was located on the uptown side of St. Peter Street between Royal and Bourbon Streets, in what is now called the French Quarter.


In 1792, Parisians Jean-Louis Henry and Louis-Alexandre Henry purchased a piece of property measuring 64 feet by 128 feet from Louis McCarty. In a letter dated October 6, 1792, two days after the official opening of the theatre on October 4, Baron Joseph Delfau de Pontalba wrote to ex-Louisiana governor, Esteban Miró, the following description of the theater's interior:

The theatre opened on October 4, Mr. de Carondelet's [Royal Governor of Louisiana, 1791-1797] saint's day. Two of the male actors are tolerable, the others bad; the actresses are fit to be run off [the stage] with a broom to their backs. The theatre is small, but quite pretty.... There are twelve loges [loggias] in the theatre which are all rented at $200 to $300 each per year, and they are reserved a month before the opening. The amphitheatre seats are 6 esaclins each, and the pit and gallery 4 each.[1]

A troupe began to perform in the city in the 1790s; they were probably refugee actors from Saint-Domingue (Haiti). The troupe performed regularly until 1800; it was properly organized in 1794. In 1793, Madame Dursoier, who was the new director, began to hire quadroon actresses. On 22 May 1796, the opera Silvain by André Grétry, became the first opera performed in New Orleans. The French actress, Jeanne-Marie Marsan, was the leading actress at the theatre for the 1795-96 season. In 1797, there were fourteen actors employed at the theatre's troupe. When the order of the theatre was established in the contract of 1797, Jeanne Marsan was among the actors granted benefit performances, and together with Clerville and Delaure, the highest-paid actor altogether with a salary of §70.

In 1798, the stockholders of the theatre asked for and were granted a gambling permission to finance the theatre. In 1800, an etiquette argument about reserved seats in the theater led to its closure, officially because the gambling concession was said to have been abused, but it was opened again in 1802. In 1803, the theater was closed due to the bad condition of the building. In 1804, the building had been repaired and the theatre was permitted to open again. The cast was made up mostly of refugees, as before. However, in the face of competition from newer, larger theaters, the Theatre of St. Peter Street again went out of business, the building being auctioned off in 1810. This theater burned down in the same 1816 fire which destroyed the first Théâtre d'Orléans.

American premieres[edit]

  • 1796: Silvain by André Grétry
  • 1801: Il barbiere di Siviglia, ovvero La precauzione inutile by Giovanni Paisiello
  • 1802: Le desert ou l’oasis by Joseph Arquier

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Le Gardeur Jr., Rene J. (1963)"The First New Orleans Theatre, 1792-1803