The Folies Bergère is a cabaret music hall, located in Paris, France. Established in 1869, the house was at the height of its fame and popularity from the 1890s' Belle Époque through the 1920s' Années Folles. The institution is still in business, and is always a strong symbol of French and Parisian life.
Located at 32 rue Richer in the 9th Arrondissement, the Folies Bergère was built as an opera house by the architect Plumeret. The closest métro stations are Cadet and Grands Boulevards. It opened on 2 May 1869 as the Folies Trévise, with light entertainment including operettas, opéra comique (comic opera), popular songs, and gymnastics. It became the Folies Bergère on 13 September 1872, named after a nearby street, the rue Bergère ("bergère" means "shepherdess"). The American impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., named his light-hearted, extravagant Broadway revues the Ziegfeld Follies (1907-1931), after the Parisian venue.
In 1882, Édouard Manet painted his well-known painting "A Bar at the Folies-Bergère" which depicts a bar-girl, one of the demimondaines, standing before a mirror. In 1886, Édouard Marchand conceived a new genre of entertainment for the Folies Bergère: the music-hall revue. Women would be the heart of Marchand's concept for the Folies. In the early 1890s, the American dancer Loie Fuller starred at the Folies Bergère. In 1902, illness forced Marchand to leave after 16 years.
1918, Paul Derval (1880–1966) made his mark on the revue. His revues were to feature extravagant costumes, sets and effects, and his "small nude women". Derval's small nude women would become the hallmark of the Folies. During his 48 years at the Folies, he launched the careers of many French stars including Maurice Chevalier, Mistinguett, Josephine Baker, Fernandel and many others.
In 1926, Josephine Baker, an African-American expatriate singer, dancer, and entertainer, caused a sensation at the Folies Bergère in a new revue, La Folie du Jour, in which she danced a number Fatou wearing a costume consisting of a skirt made of a string of artificial bananas and little else. Her erotic dancing and near nude performances were renowned. The Folies Bergère catered to popular taste. Shows featured elaborate costumes; the women's were frequently revealing, practically leaving them naked, and shows often contained a good deal of nudity. Shows also played up the "exoticness" of persons and objects from other cultures, obliging the Parisian fascination with the négritude of the 1920s.
The funeral of Paul Derval was held on 20 May 1966. He was 86 and had reigned supreme over the most celebrated music hall in the world. His wife Antonia, supported by Michel Gyarmathy, succeeded him. In August 1974, Antonia Derval passed on the direction of the business to Hélène Martini, the empress of the night (25 years earlier she had been a showgirl in the revues). This new mistress of the house reverted to the original concept to maintain the continued existence of the last music hall which remained faithful to the tradition. Since 2006, the Folies Bergère has presented some musical productions with Stage Entertainment like Cabaret (2006–2008), Zorro the Musical (2009–2010) and Scheherazade (2011-2012).
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