From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Founded in 1888 by Joseph Oller, the creator of the Moulin Rouge, the Olympia is the oldest music hall in Paris, today easily recognizable by its giant red glowing letters announcing its name. It opened in 1889 as the "Montagnes Russes" but was renamed the Olympia in 1893.
Beyond musicians, the Olympia played host to a variety of entertainment including circuses, ballets, and operettas. However, following a steady decline in appearances by the great stars, from 1929 until 1944 it served as a movie theater. It may have opened as a music hall under the German occupation of France during World War II, but certainly in 1945 after the Liberation, it was a music hall free to Allied troops in uniform. Attendees had to listen to the playing of four national anthems before the varied programs that always ended with a spirited French can-can performed by dancers, some of whom were no longer young. Thereafter, at times it may have reverted to movies again until Bruno Coquatrix revived it as a music hall with a grand re-opening in February 1954. After his death, it ultimately went into another decline and was in danger of being torn down and turned into a parking lot but on January 7, 1993, France's then Minister of Culture, Jack Lang issued a preservation order for the Olympia that resulted in two years of construction work to rebuild a perfect replica of the façade and the grandeur of its famous red interior.
Édith Piaf achieved great fame at the Olympia giving several series of recitals from January 1955 until October 1962. Jeff Buckley, long an admirer of Piaf, gave what he considered the finest performance of his career there in 1995.
Jacque Brel's 1961 concerts at L'Olympia are legandary and preserved to this day on new CD releases.
Inaugurated by the biggest star in France at the time, singer/dancer La Goulue, the venue has showcased a wide variety of performers, from French acts like Yvonne Printemps, Charles Aznavour, Gilbert Bécaud and Johnny Hallyday, to international stars like Nelly Furtado, Stevie Nicks, Fairuz, Morrissey, Nick Cave, Lola Beltran, Amália Rodrigues, Tereza Kesovija, Céline Dion, Umm Kulthum, Jeff Buckley, The Beatles, Bülent Ersoy, Luciano Pavarotti, Diana Krall and the Rolling Stones.