In Praise of Folies: A Wolfsonian Homage to the Folies Bergère

Although the Folies Bergère first opened to the Parisian public as a theatrical venue for light opera and music, pantomime and vaudeville acts in 1869, it was on this date in history that the music hall experimented with a new kind of revue that established it as the city’s most popular nightclub. Having undergone a change in management, in 1886 the Folies Bergère opened a spectacular musical revue, the “Place aux Jeunes.” The new revue featured sensational sets and a troupe of chorus girls sporting shockingly revealing costumes, and helped establish the Folies as the premier Parisian nightspot.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In the 1890s, the Folies Bergère followed up on its reputation for showcasing the carnal pleasures by adding burlesque, striptease, and nude revues, and was immortalized in the artwork of such famous French painters as Édouard Manet and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

In the “roaring twenties,” when American jazz was all the rage and the sensual aspects of African culture were celebrated in performance and film, Josephine Baker made her spectacular Folies debut. In 1926, the famous African-American singer and dancer emerged from a flower-strewn sphere lowered onto the stage wearing only a G-string decorated with bananas!


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Folies Bergère remained so popular and successful well into the twentieth century, that the revue was exported to other cities around the world. Havana, Cuba, another city synonymous with sensuality in the pre-Castro era, staged a Folies Bergère revue.





The Wolfsonian–FIU, Vicki Gold Levi Collection


~ by "The Chief" on November 30, 2016.

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