Cirque Royal, Brussels
The Cirque Royal is a theater in Brussels inaugurated in 1878. It was then the only permanent circus in Brussels. Since the 1950s, there has been a succession of concerts and ballets on the program (particularly initiated in the 1960s by the Ballet du XXe siècle by the famous choreographer Maurice Béjart). The Cirque Royal is now also a temple of stand-up and comedy. A very popular place in the cultural life of Brussels, the Cirque Royal is the property of the City of Brussels.
Designed by architect Wilhelm Kuhnen, it consisted of a hall in the shape of a regular polygon with 20 sides (icosagon), 37 meters in diameter, and at the time could hold 3,500 spectators arranged in 15 rows. The orchestra was located above the horse entrance and could hold 40 musicians. In the basement, the boxes could accommodate 110 horses. The arena was equipped with an installation allowing the putting under water and the transformation into swimming pool.
The inauguration took place on January 12, 1878 by Circus Renz. The great names of circus art follow one another there for a century.
A few years later, in addition to the circus, it also hosted large-scale plays, pantomimes and ballets, featuring up to 200 artists. There were also nautical plays and equestrian shows. Between 1908 and 1914, a Belgian film company presented many films there.
On July 29 and 30, 1914, on the eve of the First World War, it was the setting for major meetings of the International Socialist Bureau against the war, with in particular a triumphal speech by Jean Jaurès, the French socialist leader, two days before his assassination.
After the First World War, it housed German soldiers for a time under surveillance. From 1920 it reopened as a circus and the director at the time reinstated horse shows there, supplemented by music hall revues and singing tours. Maurice Chevalier and Mayol were applauded there in 1924 as well as Joséphine Baker the following year (with Sidney Bechet as musical accompaniment). Charles Trenet followed in 1947.
In 1953, the architect Charles Van Nueten rebuilt the complex in order to bring it up to date and then began to succeed the big names in song and entertainment.
Several traveling circuses still stopped there in the 1950s.
From 1961 until the 1980s, Maurice Béjart created and presented countless ballets there; the first was Les Quatre Fils Aymon. Since then, countless jazz, French chanson, pop/rock, classical music and opera artists have followed one another. But thanks to the appearances of some of the greatest comedians it is also considered a temple of stand-up comedy.
The circusbuilding, owned by the City of Brussels and with a capacity of 2,000 seats, underwent a major renovation in 2018 and a new team was set up around Denis Gérardy to manage the place. The room was managed from 1999 to June 2017 by the Cultural Center of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, Le Botanique.
Cirque Royal | Koninklijk Circus
Rue de l’Enseignement 81
Exterior pictures taken on: 8 March 2022
Interior pictures taken on: 29 December 2022