THE Famous Spiegeltent – (“Mirror” Tent from the Dutch) – has been a joyous feature of Melbourne’s summer for more than a decade.
The original Spiegeltents were constructed in the Flemish Region of Belgium in the late 19th /early 20th centuries as mobile dance halls, bars and entertainment salons. They were transported around the country and assembled for town fairs in areas that did not have a proper hall.
Only a few of the original “tents of mirrors” have survived. The Famous Spiegeltent is the most lavish of those remaining. It was built in 1920 by master craftsmen and has played host to some of the world’s greatest cabaret artists, musicians and circus burlesque performers. Since Marlene Dietrich sang ‘Falling In love Again’ on The Famous Spiegeltent stage in the 1930s, its magic mirrors have reflected thousands of images of artists, audiences and exotic gatherings.
One of Australia’s most colourful performers, the larger than life singer, Madam Pat Thompson, was closely associated with the Famous Spiegeltent in the last two decades of her career.
She first performed in it at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in 1991 with David Bates, Canberra based jazz pianist who later bought the Tent which he now operates with his wife, Michèle d’Arbela.
In 1995 Madam Pat (then aged 72) and her Band played the Edinburgh Festival in the Famous Spiegeltent for the third time.. On the final night in Edinburgh there were seven encores.
This year Australia celebrates the centenary of its capital city, and as part of the celebrations the Famous Spiegel Garden, another 1920s spiegeltent, will be on site in the Senate Rose Gardens, Old Parliament House from 1 March to 24 March.
A feature of these celebrations will be a Tribute to Madam Pat.on Sunday 17 March at 6.00pm in the Famous Spiegel Garden. Book online for this session, and for any of the other exciting performances on offer from midday to late at night. Click here for the complete PROGRAMME. Book here: BOOKINGS
Her last performance was in Melbourne with David Bates and her Orkestra in the Famous Spiegeltent in 2008 when she was 84. She died in Canberra on 26 July 2011. That year ABC TV presenter, Bill Brown, produced a documentary on the life of this much loved performer. The documentary is available online as a 9-part series.
Click on the picture above to relive Madam Pat’s final performance in the Spiegeltent in 2008 which forms Part 1 of the series. If you haven’t seen the series before you will fascinated by the extraordinary life of this extraordinary woman.