Lunar magic

Lunar magic

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The journey to the moon. Opera-fairy

© BnF, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / BnF image

Publication date: May 2019

Historical context

Chéret, Offenbach and Parisian magic

The poster created by Jules Chéret (1836-1932) for the show set to music by Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) is representative of a style and an era. The two men began their collaboration under the Second Empire, in 1858, on the occasion of the launch of the opéra-bouffe Orpheus in the Underworld, huge public success despite negative critical reception. The artist had been drawing for advertising for a decade then, but he specialized in advertising for many Parisian shows; her lettering, the dynamism of the image, the representation of an eroticized woman make her works very recognizable. The faerie style, inspired by folklore and mythology, attaches to wonderful subjects with romantic potential which the Moon perfectly embodies.

Image Analysis

The Star of the Stars

If Chéret favors the vertical format for his posters, he reserves bright colors for commercial advertisements or other types of popular shows, such as caf'-conc 'or the ball. The dozen or so posters he created for Offenbach tend to adopt a pale, even shade barely enhanced with a few bright touches - which suits the subject well here. Its classic composition distributes information from top to bottom (location, title in larger, author in red capitals) and gives the beautiful role to the Moon. He represents her in the middle of the image in the traditional way as a round face, with a mysterious gaze. The remainder of the poster consists of thumbnails that read top to bottom, starting from the right and returning to it. United by a general movement which reveals the abundance of extras (therefore the investment made), they show particular episodes chosen for their evocative potential (the long canon, the telescope) or for or to underline the opulence of the decorations. In the booklet, the Terrans' contribution consists of importing love (between the Terran Prince Caprice and the Selenite Princess Fantasia) and alcohol onto the Moon, sold to the Moon King as an elixir for weight loss by Caprice. It is this fool's market and this contagion of the drunkenness of the party that Chéret chooses as the main scene, which once again allows him to include a woman as the main character of the poster: Zulma Buffar played indeed disguises the role of the Prince.


Fashionable Moon

Posters like the Travel to the moon participate in the development of the shows of the City of Light, which in return offer designers like Chéret multiple opportunities to promote a rapidly expanding minor art. Alongside recognized artists and those who call themselves "independent" and challenge their preeminence, they gain legitimacy. These popular creators of images are not shy about blurring the lines and pursuing rewarding careers with the explosion of advertising and image collections. The streets of Paris are so covered with these ephemeral images that it is necessary to regulate their presence and to grant them dedicated spaces. In 1868, the Morris father and son won the competition for the poster columns that still bear their name. With the posters they protect from the rain and light up at night, they are now part of the Parisian landscape, of its heritage, of its imagination.

The poster for Chéret and the magical opera created by Offenbach do not only invite us on a real journey: they launch a fashion. The time is indeed for discoveries, those of explorers of unknown continents, those of scientists revealing the infinitely small and the infinitely large, those of the first tourists for whom guides are published and for whom a literary genre is created. . The long-fashioned oriental exoticism is not exhausted, as evidenced by the presence on stage and on the poster of a dromedary - which was reportedly rented at the Jardin d'Acclimatation. Above all, the libretto by Albert Vanloo, Eugène Leterrier and Arnold Mortier is clearly inspired by two famous novels by Jules Verne, Journey to the Center of the Earth (the final volcanic eruption, 1864) and of course From the Earth to the moon (1865). As is often the case, the adaptation to the stage, especially by an artist like Offenbach, has a multiplier effect. In the years that followed, while the fairyland continued to be sold out, the Moon was the subject of several shows that fueled an already rich imagination, the breeding ground for the first fantasy novels and films at the turn of the century.

  • Moon
  • cafe-concert
  • opera
  • Offenbach (Jacques)
  • Second Empire
  • space
  • Verne (Jules)
  • popular imagery
  • publicity
  • Paris

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "Lunar enchantment"

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