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1994 - "Futurismo e dintorni"

Le Chat Noir

Black Cat's shadows and lights

Le Chat Noir (Black Cat) was the "cabaret Louis XIII fondé en 1114 par un fumiste", literally "cabaret in Louis XIII style, founded by a jester in 1114", as the on-the-door advertising used to claim, an ironic pied-de-nez that parodied the common Modern Style fashion that overwhelmed the artistic life in the late XIX century.
From a historical, and more serious, point of view, the Black Cat, one of the most famous Montmartre cabarets in the 80's of last century, had been created in 1881 by Rodolphe Salis, a painter who also made some illustrations for Poe's books. It succeeded in gathering different artistic trends of its time, from the "black humour" (humour noir, or humour macabre) represented by the Hydropathes group (including writers like Charles Cros or Maurice Rollinat), whose works were based on nonsense inspiration, irreverence and exploding fantasy, to the fin-de-siäcle exotism, conveyed for example by the neo-chinese "shadow theatre" invented by Henri Riviäre in 1886 (one of its main representations was the Assyro-Babylonian oriented Fils des Etoiles, created in 1892 with music by Satie and dramatic pattern by the Persian wizard SÉr Péladan). The performances proposed by the Black Cat were a kind of pìt-pourri to which numerous artists collaborated: chansonniers, like Alphonse Allais, who wrote sketches, famous musicians, like Alphonse Bruant, who composed the Black Cat hymn in 1884 (La ballade du Chat Noir), and also painters (Robida, Caran d'Ache, etc.).
This original theatre movement is now considered as an important step in the history of theatre because of its cultural and artistic innovations, namely the avant-garde contents of the "modern monologue" (texts that were read between two songs or sketches), the use of avertising claims to break the rythm of the traditional representation, the pre-cinematographic quality of the shadow theatre.