The theater of his dreams

Franck Ciup

Pianist and composer

Bourges (Cher)

From our special correspondent

A warm bourgeois residence, halfway between the city center and the marshes of Bourges, where Franck Ciup, on foot or in a boat, finds daily breathing, a peaceful source of inspiration. This man with a thousand facets shows us around the house as he would with visitors who regularly leave their suitcases in his guest room.

Very quickly, the musician and composer advances under a veranda which heats the azure of a pocket swimming pool. On the walls, a trompe-l’oeil – cypress trees and maze of plants – walks the eyes through the gardens of Eyrignac, in the heart of Périgord. But the real surprise comes at the end of the wooden footbridge that spans the water: a door – that of the artists – opens onto the stage of a theater, a little gem, 99 seats, not one more.

Murano pendants, ornate mirrors, chandeliers, gilding, purple velvet curtains made with offcuts from the Monte Carlo theater… The decor and atmosphere are “Italian”. Except that this insane dream had to be squeezed into a rectangular space, a “shoebox” barely over four meters wide by seventeen long and eight high.

Messy hair, shimmering blue eyes, Franck Ciup, 58, retraces the adventure of this unique Saint-Bonnet Theater. He speaks, speaks, speaks. And then shut up, let his hands speak on the Steinway together. Bach, revisited by him. Bach, always him, this genius already present at the genesis of the project, in 2004.

That day, Franck Ciup is in his living room with the decorator Jean-Luc Charpagne, who has just painted several walls of the building with his frescoes. “ A man with a Napoleonic mustache, a princely look, solid principles ”, describes the musician, who then asks him three questions: ” Do you like music ? And if so, which composer? What work? “

Yes, Jean-Luc Charpagne loves music, especially Bach, Goldberg variations. Franck Ciup gets up and is busy in a recess, out of sight of the decorator. He is at the piano, when the other imagines, for a while, that he has plugged in a CD and left without saying a word.

This is the hour when the friendship between the two men is truly forged. And all that’s missing will be the spark of a late-night chat to ignite their spirits. One of the guests finds it unfortunate that the arrival at the Ciup of friends of immense talent pianists only gives rise to informal concerts, for a handful of elected officials, in a corner of the living room. Never mind : “The barn adjoining the house is being transformed into a theater! “, ignites Jean-Luc Charpagne. But on one condition: “Let it be a real theater, open to the public! “

Deal concluded. Franck Ciup, who was then still pursuing two careers, one in music, the other in clothing, put together a financing plan, “Without any subsidy”. Design, authorizations, programming… After two years of work, the Steinway left the show to join the theater. The room is full, the emotion palpable, the first notes are scattered. Schubert, Schumann and Bach of course. It is Bertrand Chamayou, a rising star, who on this stage, barely large enough to accommodate the grand piano, inaugurates a series of 250 concerts and album recordings.

Since then, for an often modest sum (the cheapest seats cost 10 €), the Théâtre Saint-Bonnet offers both initiates and neophytes the opportunity to come and listen, in an intimate atmosphere and with exceptional acoustics, to the great names of the piano. , such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Grigory Sokolov, Alessio Bax, Nikolaï Lugansky or Momo Kodama.

Franck Ciup, who sold his clothing brand Col Claudine in 2010 to devote himself entirely to music, also regularly climbs on the stage of his theater, alone or accompanied by actors. With Marie-Christine Barrault, he sets to music the texts of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Christian Bobin. It also traces the life of Sister Emmanuelle, always alongside this great actress, “godmother” of Saint-Bonnet. A theater which, she praises, is to the voice what the stradivarius is to the bow.


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