RIPM’s “Illustrations of the Week”
Scenes from a Parisian Café Chantant
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk the streets of Paris in the 19th-century? You are strolling along the cobblestone streets, taking in the sights and sounds, when suddenly a song by Aristide Bruant catches your ear. Enticed, you follow the sounds into a dimly-lit room and hear this:
There, in one of Paris’s famous cafés chantants, you cast your eyes around and see a host of eccentric characters—performing, serving, listening, and, of course, drinking.
The bouquet seller Le garçon de café The waiter
Perhaps you would like to hear to another song by Aristide Bruant, and while listening, view these images again.
Musica, Vol. 7 No. 74 (November 1908): 167.
The seven images depicting scenes in cafés chantants were published on 6 December 1851 in L’Illustration, the first illustrated newsweekly in France. Between 1843 and 1899, the journal published over 3,350 engravings of musical interest, offering an expansive visual account of musical activities in 19th-century Europe. We will continue to feature a number of illustrations from this journal in the weeks ahead.
RIPM search tip: To access 356 related records to cafés chantants, search “café chantant” as a keyboard in both RIPM’s Retrospective Index and e-Library of Music Periodicals.
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