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STAGE MACHINERY OF THE BOURLA THEATRE, ANTWERP

2014-02-28

The Bourla is the last remaining municipal theatre in Europe with original stage machinery, created by the French company Philastre and Cambon in 1834. In addition to the original equipment in the fly tower, it also preserves the counterpart, the three-level understage machinery and the orchestra pit. The stage machinery as well as the Neo-Classical building by the Belgian architect Pierre Bourla were, in fact, completely restored in 1993 in the context of Antwerp European Capital of Culture and even received a Europa Nostra Award. At the time, a new metal structure was introduced to support modern stage technology, and the two types of equipment have been operated together.

The resident company of contemporary theatre Het Toneelhuis advocates the dismantlement the historic and still workable machinery in the fly tower and understage and its replacement by a completely modern solution. The City of Antwerp, owner of the theatre, isn’t really opposing the idea and ordered a feasability study for the modernisation of the theatre. A decision is expected in the coming weeks.

If the original stage machinery is dismantled, one of the only theatres in Europe where 19th century operas and dramas can be staged authentically will be irreparably lost. If it is preserved, the Bourla could become the European centre of historically-informed performance practices, a place where our intangible heritage could be genuinely rediscovered, studied and performed. This would not exclude using the stage for modern productions: a mixed repertory would be possible.

The nomination for ‘The 7 Most Endangered’ 2014 was made by PERSPECTIV - Association of Historic Theatres in Europe.

 

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PERSPECTIV - Association of Historic Theatres in Europe
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