Folies Bergères

Coordinates: 48°52′27″N 2°20′42″E / 48.874167°N 2.345000°E / 48.874167; 2.345000

The Folies Bergère (pronounced: ) established in 1869 in Paris, France, is a music hall which was at the height of its fame and popularity from the 1890s through the 1920s. As of May 2010 the institution is still in business.


Located at 32 rue Richer in the 9th Arrondissement, it was built as an opera house by the architect Plumeret. It was patterned after the Alhambra music hall in London. The closest métro stations are Cadet and Grands Boulevards.

It opened on 2 May 1869 as the Folies Trévise, with fare including operettas, 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").

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 review. 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.

In 1918, Paul Derval (1880-1966) made his mark on the review. His reviews 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, Joséphine Baker, Fernandel and many others. In 1926, Joséphine Baker, an African-American expatriate singer, dancer, and entertainer, became an overnight sensation at the Folies Bergère when she performed the Danse sauvage, 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.

In 1936, Derval brought Joséphine Baker from New York to lead the review En Super Folies. Michel Gyarmathy, a young Hungarian arrived from his home in Balasagyarmath, designed the poster for En Super Folies, a show starring Josephine Baker in 1936. This began a long love story between Michel Gyarmathy, Paris, the Folies Bergère et the public of the whole world which lasted 56 years. The funeral of Paul Derval was held on 20 May 1966. He was 86 and had reinged supreme over the most celebrated music hall in the world. His wife Antonia, supported by Michel Gyarmathy, succeeded him. In August 1974, the Folies 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 reunited the qualities proper 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) or Zorro the Musical (2009 - 2010).

Notable performers
  • 1936: Folies Bergère de Paris directed by Marcel Achard and Roy Del Ruth with Maurice Chevalier, Natalie Paley, Fernand Ledoux
  • 1956: Folies-Bergère directed by Henri Decoin with Eddie Constantine, Zizi Jeanmaire, Yves Robert, Pierre Mondy
  • 1956: Énigme aux Folies Bergère directed by Jean Mitry with Dora Doll, Claude Godard
  • 1991: La Totale! directed by Claude Zidi with Thierry Lhermitte
Similar venues

The Folies Bergère inspired the Ziegfeld Follies in the United States and other similar shows, including a longstanding revue at the Tropicana Resort & Casino in Las Vegas and the Teatro Follies in Mexico. The Las Vegas Folies Bergere, which opened in 1959, closed at the end of March 2009, after nearly 50 years in operation.