Monthly Archives: May 2013

Folies Bergère

On May 1, 1869, an opera house built by the architect Plumeret debuted at 32 rue Richer in the 9th Arrondissement.

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Opening as a place for operettas, popular songs and gymnastics, this venue would change its name and reputation forever only a few years later. Renamed Folies Bergère, after a nearby street, the rue Bergère (“bergère” means “shepherdess”), the location’s fame was sealed in 1882 with Manet’s depiction of a young “demimondaine” in A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.

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A new genre of entertainment debuted at the Folies Bergère, a music-hall style entertainment that would be the hallmark of its success for many decades to come.

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In 1918, Paul Derval upped the ante and added extravagant costumes, sets and a parade of nude women. The Folies would subsequently launch the careers of Maurice Chevalier, Mistinguett, and most notably, Josephine Baker. Her costume of a banana skirt, and not much else, took Paris by storm in the 1920′s, making her an overnight sensation. 

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The Folies continued on well in to the later half of the 20th Century, introducing new names and a new style of exhibition.

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Though the Folies Bergère girls of the past no longer grace the stage in feathered headpieces and sequenced g-strings, the beautiful venue is still used for popular entertainment, hosting theatrical productions in recent years, most appropriately, the recent revival of Cabaret.

Vive Les Follies Bergère!

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