On This Day

A Bar at the Folies-Bergere, Folies-Bergere manet, Folies-Bergere painting
Courtauld Institute of Art, London
“A Bar at the Folies-Bergère,” Édouard Manet, 1882

On This Day: “Place au Jeunes” Revue Opens at Paris’ Folies Bergère

November 30, 2010 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Nov. 30, 1886, the revue “Place au Jeunes,” a mix of comedy and scantily clad dancing girls, opened to a rapturous reception at the Folies-Bergère.

“Place au Jeunes” Debuts

The Folies Bergère theater, fashioned after the Alhambra Music Hall in London, opened in 1869 at 32 Rue Richer on Paris’ Right Bank. Its mix of operettas, comic opera, popular song, and gymnastics failed to set Parisian nightlife alight.

In 1886, however, new management turned that around. “Place au Jeunes,” an over-the-top revue featuring chorus girls in outrageous and revealing costumes, transformed the Folies Bergère into the city’s hotspot.

“By the last decade of the 19th century, the theater’s repertory encompassed musical comedies and revues, operettas, vaudeville sketches, playlets, ballets, eccentric dancers, acrobats, jugglers, tightrope walkers, and magicians,” explains Encyclopedia Britannica.

From there its fame spread far and wide, attracting international stars and royalty. Charlie Chaplin, Maurice Chevalier, the Mexican comedian Cantinflas, Frank Sinatra and boxer Sugar Ray Robinson were among a who’s who of show business personalities who all made appearances.

But the performer most identified with the Folies is Josephine Baker, an African-American who traveled from New York to Paris to appear in “La Revue Negre.” She secured her fame with a performance in which she appeared on stage in a skirt made of 16 bananas.

The Folies Bergère and its lively shows—all with 13 letters in the title—inspired a good deal of artwork, most notably Édouard Manet’s “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.”

The Theater Today

The theatre’s popularity dwindled in the early 1990s, as the famously risqué performances gave way to more family and tourist-friendly shows.

The theatre was closed in December 1992 for a nine-month, $5 million renovation. It remains open today, hosting a variety of shows from around the world.

Reference: Official site and merchandise


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