theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…
On the 30th of November 1886, The Folies Bergère staged its first revue in Paris. Located at 32 rue Richer in the 9th Arrondissement, and called Folies Trévise back then, it was finished as an opera house by the architect Plumeret in 1869. The venue was at the height of its popularity from the 1890’s Belle Époque to the 1920’s Années Folles. To start with, its shows included operettes, comic opera, popular songs and gymnastics, then a few years later it became the Folies Bergère (the Extravagant Shepherdess) borrowing the name of the nearby rue Bergère. The Belle Époque was a period of peace and optimism spurred on by industrial progress, and culturally exuberant. From the onset, there was “A generally well-intentioned effort on the part of the new leaders of the Republic to promote a bourgeois paradise for rich and poor alike with the result that only the well-off had the time, energy and money to enjoy the Music Halls, circuses, theatres, and fairs intended for a more “democratic” participation.” (Charles Rearick, review of Adam Parfrey’s ‘Pleasures of the Belle Epoque: Entertainment and Festivity in Turn-of-the-Century France’, in Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1986).
There was, though, quite a populist quality to places such as the Folies. Much like the cabaret venue Moulin Rouge, it actually allowed people from all walks of life to mix. In 1886, the Folies Bergère’s manager Édouard Marchand introduced a new genre of show, the music-hall review, which was then developed from 1918 by Paul Derval by bringing in his so-called ‘small nude girls’ in extravagant costumes, sets and effects and they became the new ‘brand’ of the place. The Folies Bergère served an unusual mix of customers. It was a fashionable socialising place for the Paris literati, captured in Manet’s well-known A Bar at the Folies Bergère (1882)…
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