For the 400and anniversary of the birth of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, the Comédie-Française will play on January 15 the new version of the play seen with pleasure then censored by the Sun King, directed by Ivo van Hove.

In one night, Molière went from being the favorite artist of the Sun King to that of a man threatened with death by the Church. How? ‘Or’ What ? Because of a part: the Tartuffe or the Hypocrite. Seen with pleasure then censored by Louis XIV the protector of the arts, the original version was lost in the mysteries of the playwright’s life. But today January 15, 2022, 400th anniversary of the birth of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, Tartuffe will be performed for the first time on the boards of the Comédie-Française, the House of Molière.

This formerly banned text will be carried by big names in French theater such as Denis Podalydès, Claude Mathieu and Dominique Blanc, under the direction of Ivo van Hove. The Belgian director and director of Toneelgroep Amsterdam is already familiar with the Troupe. In 2016, he staged a theatrical adaptation of Visconti’s film at the Comédie-Française The Damned. Here, Ivo van Hove rediscovers Molière’s repertoire to stage this satirical comedy.

Restoring a lost text

For centuries, the original was thought to be irretrievable », specifies Christophe Schuwey professor of literature at Yale and author ofAtlas of Moliere. The absence of the playwright’s manuscript leaves a shadowy work. However, by developing a technique of theatrical genetics », Molière specialist Georges Forestier brings this censored text back to life.

Molière is at the height of glory when he undergoes this royal sanction. Protected by King Louis XIV, her troupe is in charge of entertaining the Court during the Pleasures of the Enchanted Island. For seven days, the young king organizes festivities punctuated with fireworks, horse races and above all theatrical performances. It is a collaboration worthy of the greatest that opens the ball of this festival: a comedy-ballet created by Lully and Molière. The playwright took advantage of this exceptional event to launch his new comedy in front of a limited audience: Tartuffe.

At first it wasn’t a scandal at all, the Court loves it», replaces in the context of the time Christophe Schuwey. He even whispers that the Sun King would have laughed. But the explicit criticism of devotees in the play forced Louis XIV to censor the play the next day. In 1664, the Christian king faced the rise of Jansenism, a religious movement in opposition to royal absolutism, which he intended to fight with the support of the Church. Impossible then to let his protege openly criticize the directors of conscience.

Yet at the time, the subject was not new. Since the Middle Ages, comedians have mocked the excesses of religion. What is shocking is Molière’s skill in depicting the mores of his contemporaries. “ It uses the vocabulary that the spectators know », confirms Christophe Schuwey. And above all, the character of Tartuffe played by Molière takes on the appearance of a monk. Leaving no doubt about the interpretation of the piece.

Despite this political censorship, Tartuffe does not completely disappear from theatrical life. He performed before the great names of the Court, such as at Chantilly for the Prince de Condé and at Raincy for the Princess Palatine. While reworking his comedy, Molière “makes sure to maintain the buzz“, points out the university. Successful bet. In 1669 when the Tartuffe is again authorized, the registers record a receipt of 2,860 pounds. In other words, the biggest success ever recorded by Molière’s troupe. Like what, the scandal pays.

The performance will be broadcast live at the cinema on Saturday January 15 at 8:10 p.m. in partner cinemas, then in rebroadcast from February 6.

L’Atlas Molière, Clara Dealberto, Jules Grandin and Christophe Schuwey published by Les Arènes, 272 pages, 24.90 euros.

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