At the Paris Universal Exhibition at the turn of the twentieth century, where it was said Debussy first heard Javanese gamelan music, near everything newly discovered or newly made could be found. The Eiffel Tower, now synonymous with Paris, for one; the world-encompassing scale of the Galerie des machines where visitors could delight in discovering such things as atmospheric hammers, cigarette makers, phonographs, and telephones. Add to this a colonial exhibition of the ‘other’ from across land and sea masses; the Imperial, the largest diamond in the world; and a giant wooden and stucco elephant, which was later purchased and placed alongside an infamous red windmill, the Moulin Rouge, to render complete the Jardin de Paris Elephant. For a franc, a gentleman could enter the elephant’s body, by way of a staircase twisting up one of its legs, and find themselves in an opium den and a froth of belly dancers.
Adam Bull and Kirsty Martin in “The Merry Widow.” Photograph by Jeff Busby