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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2021

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Summary

In the late nineteenth century a popular form of ballet emerged in Paris's foremost music halls: first at the Folies-Bergère in the 1870s, then at the Casino de Paris and the Olympia in the 1890s. For more than four decades, music halls rather than ballet's traditional home, the Opèra, were the settings for a vibrant French ballet culture. Music halls had the money, artistic ambition, and public visibility to attract the era's best creative and performing artists, and the profitable staging practices to generate a steady stream of spectacular ballets. Performed to full houses night after night alongside acrobatic acts and song-and-dance routines, these productions quickly became the focal point of an evening's entertainments and drew a larger and more varied audience than had ever attended ballet.

Music-hall ballets were initially no more than divertissements similar to those integrated into large-scale lyrical and dramatic works staged at the Paris Opèra or Opèra-Comique. In the 1870s, the Folies-Bergère began presenting short illustrative ballets that served as pretty and sometimes titillating backdrops to an evening of socializing. They proved immediately popular, and ballet quickly became a favorite form of music-hall entertainment. Soon the Folies-Bergère was creating new ballets at a rate of four to six per year and producing them on an ever grander scale. By the late 1880s, the hall was staging grandiose pantomime-ballets: works with extended narratives conveyed through a combination of mime and dance. Pantomime-ballets in turn became a staple of Parisian music-hall entertainment.

As the Folies-Bergère grew to be the preeminent music hall in Paris, and as ballet became an increasingly important element of its success, other venues took notice. When the Casino de Paris and the Olympia became music halls in 1890 and 1893, they looked to the Folies-Bergère as a model and patterned their activities on those of the already famous and profitable venue. Between 1890 and 1909, all three halls presented new pantomime-ballets on a regular basis, each vying to stage more exciting and impressive productions than the others. In the 1890s alone, the Folies-Bergère created thirty pantomime-ballets, the Casino sixteen, and the Olympia eighteen, each of which was performed on a nightly basis for several months. Pantomime-ballet had become everyday entertainment for a broad public.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2015

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  • Introduction
  • Sarah Gutsche-Miller
  • Book: Parisian Music-Hall Ballet, 1871-1913
  • Online publication: 09 June 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781782045687.001
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  • Introduction
  • Sarah Gutsche-Miller
  • Book: Parisian Music-Hall Ballet, 1871-1913
  • Online publication: 09 June 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781782045687.001
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Sarah Gutsche-Miller
  • Book: Parisian Music-Hall Ballet, 1871-1913
  • Online publication: 09 June 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781782045687.001
Available formats
×