The Cirque d'Hiver came into being on 11th December 1852 thanks to the Duke of Morny (half-brother of Prince Louis-Napoléon), who was granted building permission and Jacques Hittorf, his architect. A few years later, on 12th November 1859, the circus was brought to life by the ‘flying trapeze', an act invented by Léotard, known as the ‘flying performer', from Toulouse.
Thanks to the Duke of Morny, building authorisation was granted on 17th December 1851. It was Dejean who called upon Jacques Ignace Hittorf, the architect of the Cirque d’Eté (‘Summer Circus’) and the Gare du Nord train station. Work began on 17th April 1852 and continued for a period of 8 months. The circus was inaugurated by Prince Louis-Napoléon on 11th December 1852 and named after him.
The Cirque Napoléon was 42 metres in diameter with 40 windows, which were arranged within 20 separate sections to form an icosagon shape, 21 gas chandeliers and 5,900 seats. The inside and outside decoration was entrusted to renowned sculptors and painters of the era: Pradier, Bosio, Gosse and Barrias.
On 12th November 1859, Jules Léotard from Toulouse invented the flying trapeze act at the Cirque d’Hiver (Cirque Napoléon). He was the first performer to leap into the air from one trapeze to another…
Following the fall of the Second Empire, the Cirque Napoléon became known as the Cirque National, making way for the Cirque d’Hiver in 1873.
On 27th December 1907, Pathé moved into the Cirque d’Hiver, transforming it into a ‘Temple of Art Nouveau’; big cats and crocodiles were then viewed solely on the big screen.
The 4 Bouglione brothersthe beginning of a legend
The first Bouglione family performances staged big cats. In 1910, Joseph, known as Sampion Bouglione, was rescued by his son during a big cat routine.
In 1926, Alexandre discovered a collection of Buffalo Bill posters dating from the Wild Wild West Show of 1904. He persuaded his father to refer to them to recreate a show that was strongly inspired by the American epic: Captain Buffalo Bill’s Stage Show. It was a great success!
The Cirque d’Hiver reverted to being a circus again on 12th October 1923 with the arrival of Gaston Desprez. The building was completely restored: the wooden stands were replaced with concrete structures, paintings were retouched and electrical and technical installations were updated. The Fratellinis became artistic directors. Desprez continued his investment policy by building a swimming pool beneath the circus ring!
It was 4.20 metres deep, built in 30 days and inaugurated by Mistinguett.
Heavily in debt, Desprez sold the Cirque d’Hiver to the four Bouglione brothers, who began using it on 28th October 1934. This marked the beginnings of an inextinguishable passion. The Bouglione name became inseparable from that of the Cirque d’Hiver.
From around theworld
The Bouglione brothers assumed management of the circus, bringing new artistic inspiration to the city of Paris.
Three well known pantomimes, ‘La Perle du Bengale', ‘La Princesse Saltimbanque' and ‘Les Aventures de la Princesse de Saba' are grandiose shows mastered by the Bougliones.
They had success after success with repeated performances of these pantomimes, combined with big top national tours.
'La pisteaux étoiles'
The 1950s were marked by the Bouglione family’s stamp of internationalisation, offering a wide variety of performances.
Hollywood cameramen arrived to shoot the feature film Trapeze. Carol Reed directed the film that pays homage to the circus ring, immortalising Gina Lollobrigida, Tony Curtis and Burt Lancaster in this masterpiece of its genre.
The great fashion photographer, Richard Avedon, arranged a photo shoot with the international model, Dovima. The numerous photographs, taken amongst the menagerie of circus animals, have made photographic history.
The famous television programme, ‘La Piste aux Étoiles’, was broadcasted from the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione. Initially presented by Michel Francini, it was with Roger Lanzac that this programme made television history, impressing generations of families until 1978.
The Bouglione family continued touring throughout France with their big top circus tents until the early 1980s.
The new Bouglione generation took up the torch and brought a wind of change to the Cirque d’Hiver, enjoying renewed success with the following circus shows: ‘Salto’, ‘Piste’, ‘Trapèze’, ‘Le Cirque’ (which celebrated the 150th anniversary of the historic circus hall), ‘Voltige’, ‘Bravo’, ‘Audace’, ‘Artistes’, ‘Vertige’, ‘Étoiles’, ‘Festif’, ‘Prestige’ and ‘Virtuose’.
The ‘Rires’ show at the Cirque d’Hiver Bouglione de Paris, and ‘Bravo’, a national big top tour show, sealed their success as the French and European ‘Kings of the Circus’.
It all began in the 19th century, with love at first sight between a younggypsy lion tamer and the son of an Italian draper. A few years later,Scipion Boglioni ‘Frenchified' his name to Bouglione and followed Sonia to France,where they showcased fairground menageries. A century later, their grandsonstransformed the menagerie into a real circus called ‘The Four Bouglione Brothers' Circus'and the eldest, Alexandre, put the family name in the spotlight by staging ‘Buffalo Bill's Circus Stage Show', which was inspired by the famous cowboy.This resulted in a series of tours and shows which brought fame to the Bouglione family!