Fragment from the Opera Comique collected by Massenet!
An especially interesting and unique historical item just added to our inventory is this fragment of wallpaper from the Paris Opera Comique collected and preserved by the great French composer Jules Massenet. This was acquired by Massenet after the Opera Comique was burned in a fire on May 25, 1887 – at the time, the composer had just completed the score of his most celebrated opera Werther which ironically had just been rejected by Leon Carvalho, the director of the Opera Comique who considered the work too depressing. Two Complete scores of Massenet’s were lost in this fire: the one-act opera La Grand’ Tante and a four act comic opera Don Cesar de Bazan.
According to the current Opera Comique’s online timeline, the theatre building which burned in 1887 was the second Salle Favart constructed in 1840 by the architect Louis Charpentier as the first one had also been burned in a fire in 1838. This was at least the sixth home for the Opera Comique since it’s emergence in 1717. For his part, Massenet continued his close association with the company, having already premiered his great opera Manon there in 1884 and later adding Esclarmonde, Cendrillon, Sapho and Griselidis to the list of titles inaugurated by that theatre.
This wallpaper fragment, attached to a small album page and handwritten by Massenet at the top, provides an especially valuable historical artifact representing both the personal possession of one of the major composers of nineteenth century opera as well as a remnant of a now-vanished opera house.