Home: Popular Music: Music Halls

Cafe-concerts and cabarets spawned and evolved into music halls. The founder of the music hall, Joseph Oller, was born near Barcelona in 1839. He opened the Fantasies Oller, the first music hall on the Boulevards, in 1875. He lost interest in this music hall after its first performance. He founded two more long standing establishments: the Nouveau Crique, which stayed open until 1960, and the Grande Piscine Rochechouart.

When the Revolution was over, there was a relaxation of morals and many cafes began to sprout up. They would entertain with plays, ventriloquists, fireworks, orchestras, and talented musicians. They represented the best in Paris entertainment. Many composers crossed over between operettas and music halls.

When they started, artists, accompanied by a single pianist playing an upright piano, sang in the midst of the diners. A stage, bringing the performers into full view, was brought in later. Three or four more musicians began to accompany the piano. The violinist usually acted as the groups leader by keeping time.

Many of the singers of the music halls also performed in operettas and Opera-Comiques. Composers also created music and conducted for both venues. One popular composer, Herve, was successful in both music halls and operettas. Max Bouvet, a male star, debuted at Eldorado, a music hall, and he later became popular in the Opera-Comique. Another star, a beautiful young woman named Theo came on the scene at the age of sixteen or seventeen and burned out in a couple years.

The most popular clubs of Parisian nightlife were the Bobino, the Olympia, and the Cigale, which had a mobile ceiling painted by Willette. Some of the popular singers were Irene Bordoni, Mistinguett , and Yvette Guilbert. These performers as well as others became superstars much like the movie stars of today.

Three music halls, the Olympia, the Folies-Bergere, and the Casino de Paris, became the most outstanding of Paris. They boasted performances from native stars including Maurice Chevalier and Edith Piaf as well as foreigners like Josephine Baker.