14 Jul 2017

Margherita salon, the temple of the Neapolitan Belle à‰poque

The Margherita salon is one of those places that have made Naples, in a period when, of course, there was still no talk of crisis or wars: the Belle à‰poque.

The inauguration

On November 15, 1890, in the presence of the city’s creme, including princesses, countesses, politicians and journalists of the caliber of Matilde Serao, the salon opened its doors for the first time, becoming the symbol of a long period of Neapolitan wellbeing.

The same Serao wrote: “Who can never enumerate the beautiful surprises of this trendy meeting? Every evening there is to be stunning, in truth, and it is only due to the many and joyous attractions if the audience comes to you numerous. Salone Margherita and you will really find something to refresh your spirit, of which to delight you not only the mind and the ears, but also the eyes, oh the eyes above all … “.

The idea of ”‹”‹referring to the French cafés-chantants, like the famous Mouline Rouge, came to the Marino brothers and, thanks to the mediation of the mayor the Torrela’s Prince, it was possible to insert the project in the one of the Gallery Umberto I, so much so that they were located just below.

The success was immediate, thanks to the swarm of intellectuals in the city at the time.


Manifesto del Salone Margherita

Promotional posters, contracts, menus: everything was written in French, the same language with which the waiters and spectators expressed themselves, arriving to create artistic names for the artists, faintly from across the Alps, which followed the same Parisian style.

It is in this circumstance that we owe the names, for example, also of songs dedicated to artists who appeared on the show’s stage, such as “Lily Kangy”, “A frangesa” or the very famous “Ninì Tirabusciò”, written in 1911 by Salvatore Gambardella and Aniello Califano.

But if, on the one hand, there were so many Italian artists to tread the stage of the Marherita salon, before and after having reached the celebrity, on the other hand were also important international figures to perform, such as The beautiful Otero and Cléo de Mérode, respectively Spanish and French dancer.

At the Margherita salon you also owe a nice legacy, such as that of the “move”, invented by Maria Ciampi, and the term, still used today, of “sciantosa”, which derives from chanteuse, which, in French, means “singer”

In 1891 the Salone was taken over by Giuseppe Marino, director of the Banco di Napoli, and by Eduardo Caprioli.

They began to make long appearances even illusionists, tenors or soubrettes and femme fatale succinct and particularly sexy, which gathered, at the opening of the curtain, stratospheric applause.

The cinema and the episode of Lucy Nanon

In 1898 the cinema was installed in the Gallery, which then became visible also from the Salone.

Meanwhile, a fact of news shocked habitué and not, even reaching the public opinion: Lucy Nanon, a French chantause, found himself undergoing a real armed attack during one of his performances. It was a spectator who thwarted it and saved the situation, and later it was discovered that everything had been organized by a well-known camorrista (Raffaele Di Pasquale, called “o’buttigliere”) whose advances had been rejected. The “Sciantosa Neapolitan” became, therefore, a sad stereotype, even if the affair had no negative impact on the show.

With the end of the Belle à‰poque and the birth of the “Neapolitan drama”, the standards offered by the  Margherita salon  were no longer in vogue, definitively entering into crisis; the closure, however, occurred only much later, in 1982: over time, its cinema had become the fifth of the Gallery, there was no more exclusivity, therefore, in none of its aspects (also because other “twin” salons were born , in the city), not to mention that, in the 70s, he began to suffer from a bad reputation as a place of perdition … the long moment of glory linked to elegance and to the avant-garde performances was now a memory.

The Margherita salon today

Fortunately, the premises of this Neapolitan place of exception returned to the public in 2008, thanks to the acquisition of private individuals, the Barbaro family (Barbaro Group), already engaged, on Neapolitan soil, with major investments in the clothing industry and furniture.

Investors have indicated that they are interested in a restoration but, in the meantime, the Hall, also used as a theater, with its two stages and the mobile stage, accessible by two frescoed hallways in Pompeian style, and the main hall, surrounded by niches and mezzanines enriched with stuccoes and polychrome marbles, has returned to offer evenings of tango, exhibitions and exceptional events.