Hippodromes for shows in Paris in the 19th century

The success of circuses was such that it led to the construction of even larger establishments reserved for spectacular horse shows. On 3 July 1845, the first horse show hippodrome, the Hippodrome de l’Étoile (12,000 seats), opened its doors in Paris under the direction of Victor Franconi and Ferdinand Laloue. The "equestrian pantomime extravaganza" – military and historical epics – were coupled with carriage races, processions, tournaments and steeplechases mobilising up to 300 horses and 700 players. The success was staggering, to such a point that during the summer of 1854 more than 200,000 spectators saw Silistrie, a pantomime of the battles of the Crimean War. In 1881, the bill at the Hippodrome de l'Alma announced Jeanne d'Arc [Joan of Arc], Le massacre des chrétiens par Néron [The Massacre of the Christians by Nero] and Les Radjahs [The Rajas], a show with “a march to the sound of canon” in the line of the first stagings.

Six hippodromes were built in Paris in the 19th century and gathered a vast audience around spectacular and imposing equestrian productions.

Six hippodromes were built in Paris in the 19th century and gathered a vast audience around spectacular and imposing equestrian productions: the Hippodrome de l'Étoile (1845-1856), the imperial arenas at the Bastille (1851-1856) — which, in open air, were the summer twin of the former and seated 14,000 people — the Hippodrome at the Place Dauphine built by architect Davioud (1856-1869), the Hippodrome de l'Alma (1875-1893) with a capacity for 10,000 spectators, the Hippodrome du Champ de Mars (1885-1894) and finally the Hippodrome at the Place de Clichy, which was inaugurated in 1900 (5,000 seats) and became a cinema in 1907. The facilities were expansive and occasionally lavish, modelled on the Hippodrome de l'Alma, built by the show businessmen Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller and equipped with a stable for 200 horses, a tack room, a room for servicing show carriages, some of which were old, such as the horse-drawn coach of the Duke of Brunswick that was later turned into a barouche for the artists to make their entries. The line between cabaret and horse show was narrow: Jane Avril and La Goulue got their start there before being hired at the Moulin Rouge.

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