A Paris Winter Circus Wonderland
A drawing of the Cirque d’Hiver from the turn of the century adorns my kitchen wall — a gift from a visiting friend who found it at a flea market. The round imposing structure sits at the “top” of rue des Filles du Calvaire acting as a focal point and landmark for the Métro station closest to my apartment. I see it almost daily.
Constructed in 1852 by architect Jacques Hittorff, who was also architect for the Gare du Nord, the Eglise Saint Vincent de Paul, as well as certain fixtures at Place de la Concorde, along the Champs-Elysées and in the Bois du Boulogne. It was at one time known as the “Cirque Napoléon,” a polygon of 20 sides with a diameter of 41 meters, constructed of wood with no center support. Originally conceived to hold 4000 people, the actual capacity is 1650, following today’s fire hazard laws.
Over the last eight months, I’d been watching its “face lift,” and noticed just this past week that the sculptures by James Pradier, Francisque Duret, and Astyanax-Scévola Bosio of the Amazons and Warrior Horses on the facade (considered an important work of art), were being carefully retouched. Last night it was lit intensely bright, looking all shiny new and polished for a special inauguration in the presence of Moïra Guilmart, the “adjointe chargée du patrimoine” (Deputy of Patrimony). I was fortunate to have been invited and sit among the suited, gray-haired politicians and their wives and families, such as Dominique de Villepin, the 18th Prime Minister of the 5th Republic of France, with his magnificent main of white hair, who was mostly slumped in his seat looking preoccupied with other matters.
The city helped finance the renovation to the tune of more than 400,000€ (22% of the entire budget), to improve this important structure of Paris heritage. They city protects approximately 5000 buildings of such grand stature under the city’s “Plan Local d’Urbanisme.”
The Cirque d’Hiver has not always been a circus venue. At the turn of the 20th-century, for 10 years (1897 – 1907), it was used as a cinema, but under the direction of the Bouglione Brothers, who owns it to date, it was restored to its original “raison d’être” in 1934.
It has been home to some of the greatest clowns of this century. While Alberto Caroli, the Italian clown is a sight for sore eyes, they call a “supernova in a galaxy of perfection,” Russian clown Housch-Ma-Housch (get this, his real name is Semen Schuster!), whose character is slightly mischievous, but mostly innocent, steals the show. I fell in love with this whimsical charmer. (http://www.housch-ma-housch.de/, site in both German and English)
Irina Bouglione, wife of Francesco Bouglione of the circus family, puts on a stunning performance of grace and elegance on her watery ring in a more nude than sequined costume, moving from high in the air to a water ballet inside an iridescent diamond pool. In contrast, tall, thin, beautiful Régina Bouglione puts on a dog and pony show, substituted by goats and pigs, which see-saw, jump through hoops and slide down slides. It’s hilarious and nutty! American Robin Valencia is propelled more than 20 meters from a canon blast and Micki, the female elephant from Africa lumbers along her 150 kilo weight making it seem effortless.
The show is a masterpiece, “lit by the fairy hood of light of Éric Ravel,” accompanied by a 14-musician orchestra and adorned by the choreography of eight splendid Salto dancers. One act after another will mesmerize and delight you in the newly renovated historical Cirque d’Hiver.
I left with only a few blocks to walk home dreaming of becoming a circus performer myself one day. Which role would I play? Hmm… Beautiful acrobat? Silly clown? Goat and pig trainer? or Master of Ceremonies?
For more information and ticketing, visit http://www.cirquedhiver.com/bouglione.html
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
P.S. Make your reservations now for a three-course lunch with wine and coffee, shopping at a 10% discount with a VIP card and personal shopper/stylist (hosted by Karen Henrich of Nuit Blanche Tours), plus a Paris real estate discussion (led by me, Adrian Leeds, Property Consultant) on Thursday, December 27th under the Art Nouveau stained glass dome at Printemps…before the limit of 15 select places is gone! Women, bring your friends, husbands and lovers…Men, treat your women to this special occasion and don’t delay before it’s too late. Make a reservation now, but pay at the door. 55€ is a bargain not to pass up. To reserve your place now, email [email protected]
P.P.S. Are you a serious writer with aspirations to have your book published? Deborah Ritchken of the Castiglia Literary Agency would enjoy meeting serious writers who are interested in learning more about how to find a literary agent as well as how to craft the perfect proposal. She is interested in literary fiction, commercial (non-genre) fiction, and narrative non-fiction, particularly with French themes.” To participate, come to the first floor of La Pierre du Marais, corner of rue de Bretagne and rue des Archives in the 3rd arrondissement (across from the Mairie of the 3rd), on December 22, 2007 at 4 p.m. For more information and to reserve your place, contact Deborah Ritchken at [email protected]
P.P.P.S. Read all about yesterday’s Après Midi gathering by clicking here: /parlerparis/apresmidi.html