The Final Triumph, 1770-1778
The year 1770 saw major changes in the theatres of Paris. The old Opéra, located in the former palace of Cardinal Richelieu, had burned in 1763 and a new theatre was built in almost the same location, opening in 1770. In the interim, the Opéra was housed in the reopened and refurbished Salle des Machines, which Servandoni had operated in the Tuileries Palace from 1738 until 1754. Partly under the stimulus of a new Opéra, fresh attention was given to the Comédie, whose 1689 home, capacious and comfortable a century before, had long since come to seem cramped and outdated. In 1767, the architects Peyre and Wailly were commissioned to design a new theatre on the left bank, which would become today's Odéon. Construction was authorized in 1770, but the work proceeded slowly, and the new theatre was not completed until 1781. In the meantime, the Comédie left its old home in 1770 for the larger and better-equipped theatre in the Tuileries which had just sheltered the Opéra. The Tuileries theatre, indeed the wing of the Louvre in which it was housed, no longer exists, but it has left its mark on French theatre vocabulary. Stage right and left in France are still called "the garden side" and "the court side," referring to the fact that a spectator seated in the Tuileries theatre would have the Tuileries gardens to his left, the Carrousel courtyard to his right. The two great events which occurred during the decade the Comédie remained in this space were the premiere of Beaumarchais' Barbier de Séville in 1775 and Voltaire's triumphant return in 1778.
One of the leading salons in Paris in 1770 was that of Mme Necker, wife of the diplomatic representative of Geneva to the French court, a prosperous banker who would become Controller General of France. One spring evening this year she invited a group of prominent philosophes including Grimm,