| The most famous cabaret |

Le Moulin Rouge is happy to have its wings back after almost a month without before the Olympic flame passes on July 15, 2024. An inauguration evening will take place on July 5 with a light and sound show and a French cancan. Also spelled Moulin Rouge (much more rarely Moulin Rouge), is a Parisian cabaret founded in 1889 by the Catalan Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler, who already owned the Olympia.  It is located on the boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, at the foot of the Montmartre hill. His style and name have been imitated and borrowed by other cabarets around the world.

The Story of the Moulin Rouge

When you think of Paris, images of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and charming cafes likely come to mind. But there’s another iconic symbol that has been enchanting visitors and Parisians alike for over a century: the Moulin Rouge. This legendary cabaret, with its iconic red windmill and dazzling performances, has become a symbol of Parisian nightlife and culture. But what is the story behind this world-renowned institution?

Its Birth in Paris

The Moulin Rouge was founded in 1889 by Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler, two visionary entrepreneurs who wanted to create a new kind of entertainment venue. They chose Montmartre, a bohemian district in Paris, as the perfect location for their ambitious project. With its vibrant arts scene and eclectic population, Montmartre provided the ideal backdrop for a cabaret that promised “a palace of dance and women.”

Early Years and Challenges

The early years of this cabaret were a mix of excitement and struggle. Initially, the public reception was enthusiastic, but the cabaret faced financial difficulties and societal scrutiny. Critics often condemned it for being too risqué, but Oller and Zidler’s determination paid off. They introduced innovative performances and extravagant decor, which gradually won over the audience.

The Belle Époque Era

The Moulin Rouge truly flourished during the Belle Époque, a period of cultural and artistic explosion in Paris. This era, which spanned from the late 19th century to the beginning of World War I, saw the rise of numerous artists and intellectuals. It became a hub for creativity, attracting painters, writers, and musicians who were captivated by its lively atmosphere.

World Wars and Their Impact

The two World Wars brought significant challenges to the Moulin Rouge. During World War I, the cabaret struggled to maintain its operations as many of its performers and patrons were drawn into the conflict. World War II saw the occupation of Paris, which led to further hardships. However, the Moulin Rouge’s resilience shone through, and it managed to reopen and revive its performances after both wars.

After WWII

Between 1951 and 1960, famous artists followed one another including Luis Mariano, Charles Trenet, Charles Aznavour, Line Renaud, Bourvil, Fernand Raynaud and Lena Horne. The famous French Cancan, still present, was soon choreographed by Ruggero Angeletti in 1955. Doris Haug founded the “Doriss Girls” troupe at the Moulin Rouge in 1957. Numbering 4 at the beginning, they are now 100, including 40 on stage. Two years later, the Moulin Rouge is transformed with the creation and development of a new kitchen area to offer an increasingly international clientele a “dinner-show” with a gastronomic menu. It will acquire a worldwide reputation.

On September 7, 1979, the Moulin Rouge, now a Parisian mecca, celebrated its 90th anniversary. For the first time on stage in Paris, Ginger Rogers is surrounded by many stars including Thierry Le Luron, Dalida, Charles Aznavour, the Village People… November 23, 1981, the Moulin Rouge exceptionally closed its doors to present its show in front of the Queen of England, Elizabeth II. On February 4, 1982, Liza Minnelli led an exceptional show, directing for the first time, the British Fenella Masse Mathews. Two galas were organized in 1984: one for Dean Martin and the other for Frank Sinatra. On December 1, 1986, the most famous classical dancer in the world, Mikhail Baryshnikov, premiered an original ballet by Maurice Béjart at the Moulin Rouge.

The Moulin Rouge in Modern Times


February 20, 1988, on the occasion of the centenary of the Moulin Rouge, the premiere of the revue “Formidable” is a “Royal Performance in Paris”. It is one of the most prestigious official British events, in which a member of the royal family participates every year in London. For the second time, it took place, in France, at the Moulin Rouge. Presided over in 1983 by Princess Anne, Prince Edward was the guest of honour on 20 February 1988. In the spring of 1989, in London, exceptional performance of the Moulin Rouge in front of the Prince and Princess of Wales. On October 6 of that year, a Centennial Gala was organized with Charles Aznavour, Lauren Bacall, Ray Charles, Tony Curtis, Ella Fitzgerald, the Gipsy Kings, Margaux Hemingway, Barbara Hendricks, Dorothy Lamour, Jerry Lewis, Jane Russell, Charles Trenet, Esther Williams.


In 1994, Cartier organized a gala for the benefit of the Fondation des Artistes contre le SIDA with a private concert by Elton John. In 1995, a Lancôme gala was organized for the launch of the perfume “Poème” with Juliette Binoche. Private concert by Charles Aznavour and Jessye Norman. On November 14, 1999, a final performance of the Revue du Centenaire “Formidable”, which welcomed more than 4.5 million spectators from 1988 to 1999, was given. The magazine “Féerie” was presented for the first time on December 23, 1999.

XXI century

In February 2009, on the occasion of the year of France in Brazil and as part of the Rio Carnival, the Moulin Rouge is invited to the Rio Copacabana Carnival. In October 2019, the cabaret celebrates its 130th anniversary.

As time passed, it continued to evolve and adapt to changing tastes. Today, it remains a premier entertainment venue, offering shows that blend traditional cabaret elements with modern flair. The performances are as spectacular as ever, featuring elaborate costumes, stunning choreography, and talented artists from around the world.

Iconic Performances and Stars

One of the most significant contributions of the Moulin Rouge to the world of entertainment is the can-can dance. This high-energy, high-kicking dance became synonymous with the cabaret. It also became home to many iconic performers.

Illustrious dancers will remain in the history of the Moulin Rouge including La Goulue, Jane Avril, La Môme Fromage, Grille d’Égout, Nini Pattes en l’Air and Yvette Guilbert.  The cabaret is a place for artists, the most emblematic of which was Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. His posters and paintings ensured the Moulin Rouge a rapid and international reputation.

Moulin Rouge Architectural Marvel

The design of the Moulin Rouge is as captivating as its performances. The famous red windmill adornes the cabaret’s exterior , a nod to the windmills that once dotted the Montmartre landscape. Inside, the decor is equally impressive, featuring opulent chandeliers, luxurious seating, and vibrant colors that create a feast for the eyes.

Cultural Influence

The Moulin Rouge has played a significant role in shaping Parisian nightlife. It introduced a new form of entertainment that combined music, dance, and theatrical performance in a way that was both glamorous and accessible. Its influence extended beyond Paris, inspiring similar venues and performances worldwide.

“A crazy and obscene dance” to which we indulge “with rage”. This is how Eugène Sue evoked the “heckling”. He is the ancestor of the French Cancan, in Les Mystères de Paris in 1843. Hundreds years later, the cancan is incredibly more popular.

Behind the Moulin Rouge Scenes

What goes on behind the scenes is just as fascinating as the performances themselves. The daily operations involve a dedicated team of designers, choreographers. Support staff who work tirelessly to ensure each show runs smoothly. Stories from the performers and staff add a personal touch to the cabaret’s rich history.

In Popular Culture

It has left an indelible mark on popular culture. It has been depicted in numerous films, books, and songs, each capturing a piece of its magic. The 2001 film “Moulin Rouge!” by Baz Luhrmann, brought the cabaret’s story to a global audience, blending romance, drama, and music in a visually stunning package.

Moulin Rouge Tours in Paris in English PARIS BY EMY

Moulin Rouge Controversies and Criticisms

Throughout its history, the Moulin Rouge has faced its share of controversies and criticisms. From accusations of promoting immorality to financial scandals, the cabaret has weathered many storms. However, it has always managed to address these issues and emerge stronger, a testament to its enduring appeal and resilience.

It is more than just a cabaret; it is a symbol of Parisian culture. It is also a testament to the power of creativity and resilience. From its beginnings to its iconic status, the Moulin Rouge has captivated audiences with its dazzling performances. As it continues to entertain and inspire, it remains a cherished part of Paris’s cultural landscape.

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