Home: Popular Music: Cafe-Concerts

Cafe-concerts, cabaretŐs and music halls became very popular in Paris towards the end of the 19th century. The opening of the cafe-concerts gave the actors and theatres competition. Though the performers weren't as refined as the actors of the Opera or the Opera-Comique, they accomplished a communication with the audience through talent and charisma. Customers would come to watch performances of singers and musicians as well as laugh at comedians. The best Cafes had performers, which consisted of a tenor, baritone, three comics, one belting singer, one smooth singer, two light music singers, and two female comedians. Patrons were heavily encouraged to drink while they sat and watched.

The lyrics of the songs reflected aspects of the bourgeois life, who were the main people attending the cafe-concerts. Aristide Bruant was a performer who wrote lyrics about the lower class. Themes reflected the writer's thoughts and feelings about politics, family, preferences, and workplace. The most successful entertainers found their material in texts by Victor Hugo, Alfred de Musset, and Hippolyte Monpou. These chansons became especially popular, and publishers began to solicit artists to make attractive designs for the sheet music covers. Many of the texts contained rhyming lines and included refrains, so the audience could join the song. The composers who wrote the music for the chansons were influenced by several operettas by Offenbach and Herve.

The War of 1870 brought patriotic songs into popularity, and the most popular establishments of this time were the Eldorado and the Alcazar. The admission cost was between 70 centimes and 3 francs. The pay varied between performers. While musicians earned 70 to 150 francs per month, singers earned 150 to 700 francs per month. Both the conductors and waiters earned 300 to 400 francs per month.

Many Impressionists began to meet in cafes, which was basically the birthplace of impressionism. Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, and Bazille all met in Cafe Guerbois until 1875. They moved to the Nouvelle-Athines which was already an established cafe. This was where Degas painted L'Absinthe in 1876.