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2 - Music Halls for Tout-Paris

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 June 2021

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Summary

With their immense proportions, extravagant decor, top-notch acts, and relatively high ticket prices, the Folies-Bergère, the Olympia, and the Casino de Paris formed a trilogy of elite Parisian music halls designed for and patronized by those with time and money to spare. Audiences were nevertheless varied in social and economic background. They included tradesmen, middle- class professionals, bourgeois families, upper-class socialites, provincial and international tourists, aristocrats, and foreign nobility. Some came to the halls to revel in a posh yet libertine cafè-concert atmosphere, others to enjoy the most acclaimed popular diversions of the moment, and still others to witness the latest masterpieces in the world of operetta, pantomime, or ballet. Many came only to be seen. Although audiences overlapped and trends can be traced across the three halls, each had its own character and core audience, and differences in clientele paralleled differences in the types of ballets the halls produced.

The Folies-Bergère

The Folies-Bergère from its inception appealed to an unusually diverse audience. Aside from unskilled laborers, who could not afford the two-franc entrance fee, almost every substratum of Parisian society visited the hall at some time. In the hall's earliest years, the majority of the audience came from the petite and moyenne bourgeoisie, fluctuating and amorphous groups that ranged from clerks, officers, shopkeepers, and skilled workmen to middle-class professionals and businessmen. Some men came with their families, others on their own. Writers and artists also frequently attended, along with flaneurs and wealthy gentlemen who wandered in after tasting the pleasures of the nearby grands boulevards.

Audience demographics changed dramatically in the 1890s after Edouard Marchand took over the management of the Folies-Bergère and transformed the hall into one of the trendiest venues in Paris. While the lower echelons of the bourgeoisie may still have been present, they were suddenly outnumbered by members of the middle and upper-middle classes, aristocrats, and visiting dignitaries. The hall's gentrification also attracted well-to-do Parisians from new quarters. Flaneurs continued to wander up from the boulevard Montmartre in significant numbers, but after 1893—after Loie Fuller became the talk of the town—they were joined by the privileged and illustrious from the highest circles and most exclusive neighborhoods.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2015

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