The Palais des Fêtes, formerly known as the Sängerhaus, is located at the corner of rue de Sellénick and rue de Phalsbourg. It is a venue dedicated to festivals and cultural events that includes a great concert hall. This vast facility was built for the Straßburger Männer Gesangverein—Strasbourg Society of Singers—and it was inaugurated in 1903.
The Strasbourg Society of Singers was created in 1872 and it was a major community choir of the Elsass-Lothringen Reichsland, which had been part of Imperial Germany since 1871. In 1890, the Society changed its name to the Alsace-Lorraine Federation of Singers.
From 1897 on, financial support from the German government as well as private donations coming from all over Europe allowed the Federation to order the Sängerhaus built. The space was specifically designed for choir practice and was capable of housing large ensembles and audiences during great concerts. The main hall, which could seat up to 1,700 spectators, made it one of the largest venues in the entire region.
The blueprints were drawn by the two Alsatian architects Joseph Muller and Richard Küder and the construction lasted from 1899 to 1903. The Sängerhaus was the result of a blend of architectural styles, namely Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival, and Art Deco, and it was one of the first buildings made of reinforced concrete in Strasbourg. It is one of the highlights of the Neustadt, a neighbourhood designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1909, an organ designed by the Dalstein-Haerpfer company was added to the main hall. The instrument completed the exceptional character of the venue, since organs were usually found in churches rather than in concert halls. This innovation was a source of musical experimentation and it inspired the composers and artists that performed at the Sängerhaus, adding to its reputation within the region and beyond.
From 1903 to 1975, the Palais des Fêtes was a staple of the cultural life of Strasbourg. Its quickly-earned fame allowed it to welcome prestigious composers and musicians such as Gustav Mahler, who conducted his fifth symphony during the Music Festival, as well as Richard Strauss, Herbert von Karajan, Francis Poulenc, and Charles Munch. From the 1920s on, the venue also hosted the yearly Music Festival of Alsace-Lorraine.
At the end of World War I, the Sängerhaus was renamed “Palais des Fêtes” and became city property in 1922 after the eviction of the Straßburger Männer Gesangverein. The Palais des Fêtes remained the main concert hall of the city until 1975, in which year the city council shifted a large part of the musical events of the Palais des Fêtes to the newly-built Palais de la Musique et des Congrès. This shift was the start of a long decline for the Palais des Fêtes, a decline which lasted until the early 2000s.
In order to preserve that major element of the architectural and cultural heritage of Strasbourg, the Palais des Fêtes was added to the Inventaire Supplémentaire des Monuments Historiques (Additional Inventory of Historical Monuments) on February 9th, 2007. The organ was also designated a historical monument.
In parallel, a great refurbishment project was signed by the city council, entailing the temporary closure of the venue. Construction work lasted from 2011 to 2020 and resulted in the renovation of the city dance centre and the great concert hall. The organ, however, has not yet been reassembled.
Although the building is now in working order, its potential is still largely underestimated and underexploited. This is why several volunteers and cultural players have gathered in 2021 to create the Collectif Palais des Fêtes, whose intention is to bring back this staple of the musical life of the city to its former glory.
5 rue Sellénick
Bus 10 - arrêt Palais des Fêtes
Bus 2 - arrêt Phalsbourg