The famous music hall L'Oympia opened in 1889 (created by the man who also created Moulin Rouge). The first star performer was actually “La Goulue’, considered as the first (Moulin Rouge) cancan dancer and often portrayed by Toulouse-Lautrec (I wrote about her several times, e.g. here). I’m not going to tell the whole story of the Olympia here, but… After some decline, the Olympia became a movie theatre in 1929. The music hall we know today actually got started in 1954 under the leadership of Bruno Coquatrix. The economy was often bad and some artists, like Edith Piaf, sometimes performed for free to help. When Coquatrix died in 1979, the Olympia was again seriously threatened for years (to be transformed into a parking lot…), but on a ministry order in 1993 it was saved, to large extent rebuilt, but keeping its architecture…

Here is a short list of some of the artists who have appeared here:
Aretha Franklin, Beatles, Beach Boys, Billie Holiday, Björk, Bob Dylan, Celine Dion, Charles Aznavour, Charles Trenet, David Bowie, Diana Ross, Edith Piaf, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, Georges Brassens, Gilbert Bécaud, Ginger Rogers, Iggy Pop, Jacques Brel, James Brown, Janis Joplin, Jeff Buckley, Jimi Hendrix, Josephine Baker, Lady Gaga, Led Zeppelin, Leonard Cohen, Liza Minelli, Louis Armstrong, Madonna,, Maurice Chevalier, Miles Davis, Mireille Mathieu, Amalia Rodrigues, Ray Charles, Rolling Stones, Serge Gainsbourg, Tina Turner, Yves Montand…

I have of course been to concerts here, but then photography is complicated, not allowed… At present (until June 15) there is an exhibition which allows you to see part of the interior, get some history of the place…

In the large vestibule different items are exposed, e.g. the scene costumes worn by Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier and others.  

You can visit the so-called billiard room, wonderfully decorated. It was obviously once used as a place for rehearsals. During the exhibition you can watch excerpts of different artists' performances.

Normally you are not admitted into the concert hall during these visits, but I was lucky – a member of the team preparing the coming night’s performance let me in.

When you see where the back stage entrance is situated, you realise the size of the installations.

To conclude, shall we listen to Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf performing at the Olympia?


Amanda said...

Great post! When I was a little girl, we got tickets to see Adamo! It was such a long time ago (sigh)!

rosienanjirowe said...

I enjoyed your post
Loved listening to Brel and Piaf
Merci Peter
Xx Rosie

Vagabonde said...

I really enjoyed looking at these pictures of l’Olympia – it would have been terrible if they had made a parking lot out of it. In Paris I used to work for a music publishing company and we would get free tickets to attend some performances. But if not, I still would buy my tickets and go there very often. I saw Brassens (once I went every night he was there) and also Edith Piaf – saw her sang Je ne regrette rien in her little black dress. Also saw Charles Aznavour and Gilbert Bécaud and others. Actually after listening to Bécaud I named my eldest daughter (her second name) after a song Gilbert sang – Marieke. I’d love to see the coulisses as you did. Thanks for showing all this to us.

Jeanie said...

Magnificent, Peter. As you know, I'm a sucker for theatres -- this is terrific. And what a history! Thanks for sharing it -- and for the wonderful music to enjoy!

Anonymous said...

How could such a tiny person like Edith Piaf have those lungs?
Who else could sing that forceful son like she does?

I'm seeing that such a prestigious local hosted so many of the best!
Is not the sublime Barbara part of its history?
Whenever I listen to her singing "Ma plus belle histoire d'amour" I start melting.

Thank you so much, M. Peter for yet another tour of your fabled city.

Alexa said...

When I lived in Paris in the '60s, I was friends with the niece of Bruno Coquatrix, so I got to see performers there for free (the only way I could afford it back then!)—among them Bob Dylan, Jacques Brel, and The Moody Blues. Thanks for some good memories, Peter!