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Heritage collection of performing arts programmes

Description of the collection

Théâtres au programme.

BAnQ's heritage collection of performing arts programmes numbers approximately 30,000 documents. Nearly one quarter of the documents were published before 1970; some date back to the late 19th century.

In addition to substantial holdings in the fields of music, theatre, opera and dance, the collection also contains programmes of ceremonies, circuses and variety shows, poetry readings and multidisciplinary events, among others. Evening programmes can be found alongside seasonal and festival programmes. Some documents contain an admission ticket, press release, publicity brochure, annotations and autographs.

The holdings are more complete for certain theatres and companies active during the first half of the 20th century (in particular, the Théâtre National, the Théâtre Arcade and Her Majesty's Theatre), the mid-20th century (for example, the Théâtre de l'Estoc and the Comédie-Canadienne) and today (Compagnie Jean-Duceppe, the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, Rideau Vert, etc.). These holdings encompass many creators and playwrights, from Olivier Guimond to Shakespeare, Marcel Dubé, Molière, Gratien Gélinas and Anton Chekhov.

The collection's music-related programmes bear witness to performances in Québec by such illustrious visitors as Yvette Guilbert, Igor Stravinsky, the Von Trapp family, Erna Sack and Kathleen Ferrier. Many Québec artists are represented: conductor Wilfrid Pelletier, violonist Arthur LeBlanc, singer-songwriter Gilles Vigneault, to name but a few. A number of programmes document concerts held at Église Notre-Dame, the Ritz Carlton Hotel and Montréal's Auditorium du Plateau.

Also of note are some substantial series of programmes from Place des Arts, the Opéra de Montréal, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the McGill Chamber Orchestra, the Concerts symphoniques de Montréal, the Pro Musica Society and the Festival international de nouvelle danse.

The programme collection has been developed through legal deposit (since 2004), purchase or donation. 

Usefulness of programmes

Programmes are printed documents which accompany the presentation of one or more performances, i.e. events put on before a live audience, and indicate the title, city, performance hall, performance dates and creators involved. Programmes contain various texts and illustrations, and are published as brochures, playbills, monographs, newspapers, etc.

According to Gilbert David*, researcher at CRILCQ, programmes are "key documents for piecing together the production conditions" of a show. Although they were initially intended to accompany "the reception of a show", programmes are "materially autonomous from the performance with which they are associated", and acquire a definite "deferred [purpose] once the performance is over".

Retrospectively, these documents bear witness to cultural activities and the public's tastes. They are a valuable source of information on the activities of performance halls, companies and prominent figures in the arts. In addition to biographical information on the creators and performers, programmes also provide by photographs and, occasionally, a visual record of the halls, costumes and sets. Some programmes contain texts in which the authors, composers, conductors, choreographers, or stage or company directors comment on their work or explain their artistic vision.

* The quotes are translations.

Top Search tools and publications

The performing arts programme collection is being reorganized since 2004. Close to half of the documents are listed in the catalogue.  Many documents have been digitized and can be found in BAnQ numérique

Relevant publications on this topic include:

Danielle Léger, « Les programmes de spectacles : la captivante histoire d’une collection », À rayons ouverts, no 101 ( à paraître en 2018).

Danielle Léger, « Traces fugitives, témoins fragiles », À rayons ouverts, no 67 (printemps 2006), p. 47.

« Archives, patrimoine et spectacle vivant », Revue de la Bibliothèque nationale de France, no 5 (juin 2000), 96 p.

David, Gilbert et Sylvain Schryburt, Théâtres au programme, Montréal : Bibliothèque nationale du Québec ; CÉTUQ, 2002, 64 p.

David, Gilbert. « Éléments d'analyse du paratexte théâtral », L'Annuaire théâtral, no 34 (automne 2003), pp. 96-111.

Jubinville, Yves, « Mots de passe. Éléments pour une étude du programme », Veilleurs de nuit 3, Bilan de la saison théâtrale 1990-1991. Montréal : Les Herbes rouges, pp. 198-203.

Schryburt, Sylvain. « Des mots qui parlent : les programmes du TNM et de la Compagnie Jean-Duceppe », Cahiers de théâtre Jeu, no 105 (avril 2002), pp. 88-94.

About Montreal theatres :
Histoire du théâtre à Montréal, 1825-1930, Story Maps, BAnQ, 2017-2018.

Complementary collections and search tools are available:

National Theatre School Library
Built up essentially through gifts, the school’s collection of theatre programmes comprises roughly 12 000 documents.

Théâtrothèque du CRILCQ, Université de Montréal
Since 1978, the Théâtrothèque has been compiling, in particular, files on theatre companies, organizations and festivals in Québec. The files include theatre programmes.

Centre de documentation de l’École supérieure de théâtre (CEDEST), UQAM
Devoted to documentation, study and research, this centre makes accessible more than 6000 documents – including programmes and posters – catalogued in the CÉGESTELLE database.

Bibliothèque de l'École nationale de ballet contemporain du Québec

This school (known until very recently as the École supérieure de danse du Québec) has the largest collection of dance programmes in Québec.

Music Division, Library and Archives Canada (Printed Collection)
This large collection comprises 85 000 concert programmes of Canadian origin or interest.


Top Contacting the service

The performing arts programmes can be studied in the reading room of BAnQ Rosemont–La Petite-PatrieThis room is open to the public, on reservation, Tuesday through Friday, from 1 pm to 5 pm.

Phone: 514 873-1101, ext. 3823 or 1 800 363-9028 (in Québec)
Fax: 514 873-7168

Danielle Léger is in charge of this collection.