Show Central in Québec
Le Théâtre Capitole was the first concert hall opened at place D’Youville, in 1903, and is still dazzling audiences today now that renovations have restored it to its former lustre. Palais Montcalm, which boasts some of the best acoustics in the world, has also been completely redone. Soon Théâtre Le Diamant, famous playwright Robert Lepage’s performance hall, will make place D’Youville a shining point of convergence for the performing arts.
Place D’Youville draws crowds
Place D’Youville has been a focal point and gathering place for a very long time. It began as Montcalm public market, one of Québec’s busiest from 1878 to 1929. Its cultural vocation came to the fore in 1903 with the opening of Auditorium de Québec, then Palais Montcalm in 1932. The square went on to become an outdoor venue for the Winter Carnival, the Québec Summer Festival, annual city celebrations, and the inauguration of the 400th anniversary of Québec City. Place D’Youville certainly knows how to throw a party!
From success to decline
The prestigious Auditorium de Québec was a huge and relatively modern hall for the time, blending classical, Beaux-Arts, and Second Empire architectural elements. After undergoing extensive renovation in 1929 to enable screening of films in a posh setting, the venue was renamed the Capitol. It was versatile enough to accommodate every form of entertainment—plays, movies, operettas, music hall, vaudeville, concerts of all kinds, and galas. However, its days were numbered when a new upscale hall came on the scene in 1970—Le Grand Théâtre de Québec, located on today’s boulevard René-Lévesque. The curtain would fall on the Capitol a few years later.
Palais Montcalm suffered a similar fate. For 40 years, plays, operas, variety shows, rock concerts, and performances by Orchestre symphonique de Québec—which moved to Le Grand Théâtre in 1971—were presented there. A partly renovated Palais Montcalm soldiered on, albeit with fewer feathers in its cap.
A new—and better—lease on life
In 1992 Théâtre le Capitole was completely refurbished, and a concept never tried before in large venues in Québec was introduced—dining before and drinks during a show. The splendour of the golden age of cinema—the imposing lobby, monumental staircase, and baroque decor—was preserved, making Théâtre le Capitole one of a kind. A wide variety of popular shows are still presented at the new Capitole.
In 2007 it was Palais Montcalm’s turn to reopen after extensive renovations. The hall was redesigned specifically for Les Violons du Roy, Québec City’s renowned chamber orchestra, which made it its permanent home. Along with the best that acoustics can offer, the hall exudes exceptional warmth on account of its interior finished completely in wood. The repertoire consists of chamber music, of course, and other classical concerts, as well as world music, vocalists, and jazz.
A Diamond to polish off this golden triangle
A third hall, Théâtre Le Diamant, with a seating capacity in the hundreds and the only concert hall in Québec that will feature a megastage, will add a new facet to existing cultural infrastructure. Robert Lepage’s theatre company Ex Machina will lodge permanently there with Carrefour international de theatre de Québec and showcase international calibre productions. Needless to say, Robert Lepage and Ex Machina will present their own work integrating cutting-edge stage technology. Its oversized performance area will even be spacious enough for circus acts.
The intended partnerships between these three venues will heighten place D’Youville’s newfound cultural vitality.