Rouen, capital of the Normandy





Certified " City of art and history " by the Ministry of Culture and Communication.
Rouen, the famous "City with hundred bell towers " possesses an extremely important heritage , a witness of its rich and fascinating history.
9000 years ago, as indicate it the results of excavations, they hunted  the reindeer in the famous street Joan of Arc and 900 years before J-C, they moved in dugouts on the Seine! It is to Romain that we owe the foundation of the city on the right bank of the Seine, the favorable site because protégé of the floods, while the left bank is swampy.
Baptized then Rotomagus, the city develops very quickly because of its favorable situation, connected by the Seine to Lutetia, future Paris.

The Gallo-Roman city reaches its peak in the 3rd century, it interests and the numerous tracks of invasions left extraordinary archaeological treasures. In 393 in Rouen, it is the time of the construction of the first cathedral; the city becomes integrated into the commercial space of the world Viking and becomes a warehouse for their booties. The leader Viking Rollon becomes the first duke of Normandy and makes of Rouen his capital.
In 1066 William the Conqueror manages Rouen and participates in the Norman expansion and in its international brilliance. From then on, a multitude of churches will be built in the city. The symbolic cathedral will be built throughout the 13th century.
Following the defeat of Azincourt in 1415, the English people put the seat in front of Rouen, which has to capitulate after 6 months. It is moreover in Rouen where Joan of Arc is judged and condemned to be burnt alive on the place of the old man-market on May 30th, 1431.
In 17th and 18th centuries, Rouen remains the second city of the kingdom of France and count approximately 75000 inhabitants. Corneille, Fontenelle, Blaise Pascal, live or stay in Rouen at that time.
After the French revolution, Rouen becomes the administrative center of the department of the Seine-subordinate.
The Second Empire is a period of important transformations for Rouen: they drill the current streets Joan of Arc, Jean Lecanuet and of the Republic, they build the museum of the Fine Arts, the Theater of Arts, the church Saint-Sever, the railway stations and the arrow of the cathedral.

The cultural life of Rouen is shinning during 19th century, thanks to writers as Flaubert or Maupassant, by the impressionists and the famous paintings of the " Cathedrals of Rouen " of Monet.
The world wars are not going to save Rouen.

In June 9th, 1940, German troops enter the city. The French army  explose the bridge to prevent the passage on the left bank, but was not able to avoid the occupation of the city.
Rouen burns during a week, the Germans had forbidden the intervention of fire brigades.
During four years, the population of Rouen bears the Nazi terror. In it are added bombardments, in particular those of the red week from May 30th till June 5th, 1944: 400 bombs of a ton each! The cathedral is damaged; Saint-Maclou, the Law Court and a big part of the left bank are destroyed.

 There were 2 000 victims and 40 000 disaster victims.
August 30th, 1944, Canadians liberate Rouen. The city is a field of ruins.
The years after the war are the ones of the reconstruction. The choice is to preserve the former plan of the city and the same kind of streets. The cathedral reopens only in 1956.
The 70s see the restoration of facades and the creation of the pedestrian streets. So, the street Gros Horloge is in 1970 the first pedestrian street of France. In 1979 are inaugurated the Holy Church Joan of Arc and the Congress Palais.


Created in 1998, the Opera of Rouen Normandy has for mission the production and the presentation of lyric works, and the programming in the Théâtre des Arts of Rouen with operas, concerts of the Orchestra and ballet. Adopted in 2004, the legal shape EPCC (Public Cultural Cooperation Establishment), allows the establishment a strict control of the finances and the respect for the specifications by the communities which finance it, but leaves a great liberty to the director and to his teams in the artistic choice and the intern organization. The Opera of Rouen is financed by the Region Haute-Normandie, the City of Rouen, the State (DRAC Haute-Normandie), the Department of Eure and the Metropolis Rouen Normandie.

The Orchestra and the Choir

The Orchestra of the Opera of Rouen is composed of a permanent group of 39 musicians placed under the authority of the chef conductor, Leo Hussain. To serve better the works of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the musicians recently adopted strings and the classic bows. The orchestra of the Opera of Rouen is so the first permanent orchestra of France which strings instruments plays alternately the modern instrument and the classic instrument.
Answering to a mission of irrigation of the regional cultural events, the Orchestra plays every year a great number of concerts in little concert halls, churches and other festivals of Haute-Normandie.
Its reputation also passes by concert- tours, more and more numerous in France and abroad.

Natural complement to the Orchestra, the Choir Accentus/Opera of Rouen Normandy is a group of not permanent professional singers, placed under the artistic authority of Accentus. Their vocal and scenic professionalism has received excellent critics by the press and the public. The presence of these not permanent professional singers, requested according to the needs for the artistic projects, establishes from then on an expected moment. Every production is the opportunity of a meeting with a choirmaster chosen for his stylistic qualities with regard to the proposed work.

The artistic season

Every season the Opera of Rouen proposes about fifty different productions and more than hundred rises of curtains in the Théâtre des Arts, to which are added the tours.
Tempting programs, particularly advantageous rates for the subscribers as the groups, the students, the job-seekers or the schools, allow more and more numerous spectators to  discover these precious  culture  events.


The first Théâtre des Arts, 1776 – 1876

On June 29th 1776, a new theater was solemnly inaugurated. The theater of Rouen was a vast and beautiful located building between the Square Boïeldieu and the streets Grand-Pont and la Comédie et des Charretetes. The theater was a pleasant and convenient place. It contained normally 1868 places; but certain days of extraordinary representations, they managed to pile up to 2000 spectators. As for the scene, it was very spacious and measured not less than 22 meters deep. In 1793 the theater was named Théâtre des Arts, a name it keeps until today.   On April 25th 1876, a few moments before the beginning of the representation, a terrible fire started, making a lot of victims and destroying totally the whole theater.

The second Théâtre des Arts, 1882 – 1946

From May 5th, the City Council began to organize the reconstruction and, on August 18th, they decided that it would be preceded without delay to the organization of a competition aiming at the construction of the new Théâtre des Arts on the location of the former one. On September 30th 1882, the new theater was inaugurated. The theater has approximately 1600 places. The ways of conservation and the emergency service are outstandingly settled, and it is important to note that in 1882, at the time of its inauguration, the Théâtre des Arts was the only theater to possess a full Iron Curtain, an invention of Mr Gaillard and Mr Sauvageot, which could in a few seconds isolate completely the stage of the visitor hall. June 9th 1940, a Sunday morning, the first shell fell. In May 1944 bombardments aiming at the nearby bridges finished during the sinister " red week " the ruin of the Théâtre des Arts. In 1945-46 they decided to demolish it completely.

The third Théâtre des Arts, 1962

The Théâtre des Arts which we know at present is the third of the name. It was built on the plans of Pierre Sonrel, Jean Maillard and Robert Levasseur. The works begun in 1953, had quickly been stopped , restarted  in 1956, again stopped to restart again in 1959. It was inaugurated on December 11th 1962, with a representation of the opera "Carmen". The new Théâtre des Arts is an impressive building. Marble, a little proud and austere facade, turned to the Seine, opens on an Italian-style hall.


Dynamism and quality

Click HERE to reach the site of the Conservatory
It is in 1945 when the Conservatory of Rouen was created.
Placed under the direction of the composer Albert Beaucamp, the conservatory of music and theater became quickly an important place of musical studies.
Endowed with a library of scores and with a rich record collection of about 1300 records, the establishment is quickly promoted national music-school in 1947, then two years later Regional Conservatory.
Named, following the directive of  Marcel Landowski, National Conservatory of Region, it is finally in 1977, that will definitively be confirmed the construction of the Conservatory building Avenue de la Porte des Champs.

November 4th, 1977, the City of Rouen inaugurates the new artistic educational establishment in the presence of Mr. Lecanuet, Senator Maire.
The Academy joins in a project of modernization of the city.
Besides, the development of specialized classes, a recording studio and a very important library, the Academy possesses an auditorium of about 500 places and becomes a leading element of the cultural life in Rouen.
The naming in 2005 of Mrs Claire Paris-Messler as director of the Academy inaugurates a deep change marked by a total revision of the project of establishment.

With the cooperation of Claude Brendel, assistant director, she conceives in cooperation with the professors and the administrative personnel a federative project based on three main axes that are:  the training, dissemination and the creation.

A large place is dedicated to the notion of transversalité inciting the actors of the city to develop projects associating music, dance and theater.
The collective practices are placed at the heart of the plan, so allowing the pupils to register their courses in a constructed dynamics, on the human and active plan, and to become a full actor of the structure, its knowledge and the territory.


Orchestre 470x310

Leo Hussain is the musical director of the Orchestra founded in 1998 by the Austrian Oswald Sallaberger, who conducted it until 2010, and placed under the direction of Luciano Acocella from 2011 to 2014 (David Stern being the principal guest conductor from 2002 to 2005).

The Orchestra, which is based on a Mozart formation, often reinforces its forty musicians with additional artists, whose frequent and regular participation enriches the spirit of openness and curiosity that characterizes it.

The Orchestra thereby explores a very wide range of lyrical and symphonic repertoires, from baroque to contemporary creations.

photo credit : David Morganti

To pay homage to its musicians' specific talents, it is also determined to perform the classical repertoire on catgut string instruments and classical bows, frequently accompanied by parts of trumpets and timpani played on the appropriate instruments.

Its musical programming favours the personal development of its musicians, regularly giving them opportunities to perform as soloists and chamber musicians.

This flexibility and versatility of talents are highlighted and stimulated by numerous guest conductors who enrich the formation by bringing their own personal experiences.

Its strong, sharply delineated identity ensures that the Orchestra enjoys a reputation not only in its region of origin, where it tours regularly, but also beyond the borders of Normandy.

Its performances in prestigious venues such as the Cité de la Musique, the Salle Pleyel and the Opéra Comique in Paris, as well as in Luxembourg, Hanover, Bruges, Brussels, Havana, New York and Dehli provide the Orchestra with international recognition of its keen eye for dialogue, diversity and singularity of approach of different musical styles.


Last edited: 24/05/2017