Le Boeuf sur le Toit (cabaret)

Paris, France

Le Boeuf sur le Toit (cabaret)

Le Boeuf sur le Toit (The Ox on the Roof) is the name of a celebrated Parisian cabaret-bar, founded in 1921 by Louis Moysés which was originally located at 28, rue Boissy d'Anglas in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. It was notably the gathering place for the avant garde arts scene during the period between the wars. Maurice Sachs chronicled it in his 1939 book Au temps du boeuf sur le toit (Paris: Nouvelle Revue critique, 1948). Currently it is at 34, rue du Colisée, having moved five times within the 8th arrondissement. The current building dates from the 18th century.

The composer Darius Milhaud had been in Brazil where he had been impressed by the folklore and a popular song of the time, O Boi no Telhado (The ox on the roof). Back in Paris in 1919 Milhaud and his composer friends formed a group called Les Six. The poet Jean Cocteau was an informal member of the group and later would do the choreography for Milhaud's composition Le bœuf sur le toit—a direct translation of the Brazilian song name. This ballet farce became very popular and Milhaud, joined by Georges Auric, and Arthur Rubinstein could often be heard playing a six-handed version of it at La gaya, a bar at 17, rue Duphot owned by Louis Moysès. The presence of Cocteau and his circle made the Gaya very popular and in December 1921, when Moysès moved his bar to rue Boissy d’Anglas, he named the new bar Le Boeuf sur le Toit, probably to be sure that Milhaud, Cocteau, and their friends went with him. They did—and Le Boeuf was born. Over the years the bar became such an icon that the common belief in Paris was that Milhaud's ballet-farce had been named after the bar, which was the opposite of what actually happened.

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