Flore Révallès the vamp of Lake Geneva

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(MENAFN- Swissinfo) She was the star of the Ballets Russes in the United States in 1916. The tabloids were obsessed with her nails and hairstyles. His portrait hung on the walls of Charlie Chaplin’s house. In Switzerland, where she was born and where she died, she was forgotten. Who was Flore Révallès?

This content was published on October 14, 2021 – 9:00 AM October 14, 2021 – 9:00 AM

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Ester Unterfinger

Trained as a photo journalist at the MAZ Media School in Lucerne. Since 2000, she has worked as an image editor in various media companies and as a freelance writer. Since 2014, she has worked at swissinfo.ch.

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Other languages: 7

  • Deutsch (de) Flore Revalles – der arabische Vamp vom Genfersee (original)
  • Português (pt) Flore Révallès – an Arabian “vampira” of lago de Genebra
  • (zh) Flore Revalles- 来自 日内瓦 湖 的 阿拉伯 女郎
  • (ar) فلور ريفاليه .. المرأة الغاوية القادمة من ضواحي بحيرة ليمان
  • English (fr) Flore Revalles, the femme fatale of Lake Geneva
  • Pусский (ru) Флор Реваллес: восточная звезда русского балета с Женевского озера
  • (ja) フ ロ ー ル ・ ル ヴ ァ ル – バ レ エ ・ リ ュ ス で ス タ ー に な っ た 異国 の 妖女

At the end of her career as an animator, Révallès rents a studio in Geneva in the 1950s. She called it “Paradiso” and filled it with things from her past: a stuffed crocodile who toured with it across the United States; sabers from North Africa; Egyptian tapestries, snake skins, musical scores and dozens of photographs showing her on stages around the world or images of the Amazon. At Paradiso, Flore Révallès plays the piano, performs the operas she sings and dreams of the glorious days when she goes around the world under the name of Flore Révallès.

A photograph from 1910, when Flore Revalles was still idolized. Access Rights From Art Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Révallès has never been well known in Switzerland and finding information about her is a challenge. The only person who ever wrote about her was her godson and nephew, French actor Guy Trejan. His own autobiography devotes a few pages to his aunt, but a certain embarrassment is felt when he recounts how Révallès always said: “You cannot know what I have been! (You have no idea who I was). Well, who was this Flore Révallès?

Flore Emilie Treichler de Rolle has become Flore Révallès

Flore Révallès was born under the name Emilie Flora Treichler on January 25, 1889 in Rolle, a small town nestled on the north-western shores of Lake Geneva. Not much is known about her childhood, other than the fact that she grew up “singing all the time”, a fact she revealed in an interview with “Motion Picture Classic”.

At 16, she entered the Paris Conservatory to take singing lessons, against her mother’s wishes. His father Gustav Treichler was not involved in this decision. He left for the Abyssinian Empire in 1903 to help build a railway for King Menelik II. In 1914, he returned to Europe, where he died of a fever in Marseille.

At that time, her daughter had transformed into Flore Révallès and was performing at the Grand Théâtre de Genève, which she will soon leave to explore the world and go even further than her father. After playing the opera “Thaïs” in 1915, the decorator and costume designer Léon Bakst knocks on his door backstage. Bakst has worked with the famous Ballets Russes, whose founder Sergei Pawlowitsch Dhiagilev has toured the world with his team.

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Dhiagilev bought Révallès from her contract with the Geneva theater and took her on tour with him. In January 1916, they left for the United States – performing first in New York, then on the West Coast.

Lydia Sokolova (left) and Flore Revalles in a scene from the Ballets Russes production of Sergei Diaghilev’s “Cleopatra”. The Granger Collection, New York
Fatal erotic

In the United States, the Swiss girl from Lake Geneva has become a famous exotic goddess who has been praised for her “dark beauty” and “exotic flavor”. She played leading roles in the Ballets Russes’ productions of “Scheherezade” and “Cleopatra”, both of which were extremely popular with Western audiences, as there was an insatiable desire for performances representing the Orient at the time. The dancers of the Ballets Russes did not wear tutus or white dresses. They performed barefoot and were dressed in colorful and airy dresses from Léon Bakst’s fictional Orient. This style became a trend among American stars in the 1920s.

Flore Revalles and Vaslav Nijinsky in the play “The Afternoon of a Faun”. New York, 1916. Karl Struss

“Scheherezade” tells the story of a sheikh who wants to test the loyalty of his harem. Shortly after turning her back on her favorite lady Zobeide, she falls in love with a harem slave – played by Vaslav Nijinsky – and begins an orgy. The Ballets Russes were one of the first theater companies to portray women as vampires, which was later successfully adopted by Hollywood.

Enrico Cecchetti and Flore Revalles in Scheherazade, New York, 1916. MS Thr 495 (153), Harvard Theater Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Flore Révallès’ photographs quickly appeared in “Vanity Fair” and “Vogue,” and newspapers across the country praised her excellent performance, but her final breakthrough came with an Edward Bernay story that was considered the ” father of public relations ”. Bernay who was convinced that a good story could sell any product told the press that Révallès had tamed a snake with his beauty and used it to perfect his Cleopatra dance. In an interview with Billboard magazine, Révallès said she wanted to make her Cleopatra “dangerous, cruel and seductive” and would only achieve this by studying the cold and insidious movements of the snake. The image of Révallès playing with the snake in the Bronx Zoo traveled across the country and made her a star overnight. She continued to have her photograph taken with the snake, while years later she would pose with a young alligator donated by an admirer.

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Flore Revalles with her adopted cobra. Undergrowth and undergrowth

Even though Révallès was known for her extravagant fashion and sleek public appearance, the tabloids were more interested in reporting on the blouses she wore in her spare time and the condition of her nails.

Journal article in the Boston Post on Flore Révallès’ nails. Boston Post
Become a ghost

After two Broadway productions that were well received by audiences, she played adultery in two American silent films. In the blockbuster “Earthbound”, her lover kills her husband who becomes a ghost and talks to him from the afterlife as if it were couples therapy. After her second and last film in the United States, Révallès almost turns into a ghost herself, and it becomes more and more difficult to follow her career.

Scene from the silent movie Earthbound. Michael A. Dean

In his autobiography, his nephew mentions that Révallès performed at galas for Mussolini and supported fascism, however, he refrained from revealing more details. Révallès continues to tour the world and perform in faraway places like Cairo. In 1936, she returned to Switzerland where her acting career came to an end. She spent most of her time caring for her mentally ill brother and caring for her son after his death. From time to time, she still performed in Paris.

A photograph taken anywhere between 1918 and 1923. New York Public Library

After the end of World War II, Révallès married a Geneva industrialist. Her business was on the verge of collapse and when he passed away in 1958 she was in dire financial straits. In 1966, she died in a hospital near Leysin in the canton of Vaud under the name of Flore Cerf-Treichler, the name which is inscribed on her tombstone.

Sources

Guy Tréjan: My life is my best role. Paris 1993.

Jean-Pierre Pastoris: Night sun. The Renaissance of the Ballets Russes. Lausanne 1993

Artem Lozynsky: Orientalism and Russian Ballets. In: Situations 1/2007.

Larry Tye: The father of spin: Edward L. Bernays and the birth of public relations. New-York 1998.

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