Maps & Charts
restaurant that serves liquor and offers a variety of musical entertainment. The cabaret
probably originated in France in the 1880s as a small club in which the audience was
grouped around a platform. The entertainment at first consisted of a series of amateur
acts linked together by a master of ceremonies; its coarse humour was usually directed
against the conventions of bourgeois society. Before long the French cabaret
eventually came to resemble the English music hall with its emphasis on comic skits.
The primary exponent of French cabaret entertainment was the Moulin Rouge, in
Paris; established in 1889 as a dance hall, it featured a cabaret show in which the
cancan was first performed and in which many major stars of variety and music hall
later appeared. The world of the Moulin Rouge in its heyday was immortalized in the
graphic art of Toulouse-Lautrec.
Imported from France c. 1900, the first German Kabarett was established in Berlin by
Baron Ernst von Wolzogen. It retained the intimate atmosphere, entertainment platform,
and improvisational character of the French cabaret but developed its own
characteristic gallows humour. By the late 1920s the German cabaret gradually had
come to feature mildly risque musical entertainment for the middle-class man, as well
as biting political and social satire. It was also a centre for underground political and
literary movements. Patronized by artists, writers, political revolutionaries, and
intellectuals, the German cabarets were usually located in old cellars. They were the
centres of leftist opposition to the rise of the German Nazi Party and often experienced
Nazi retaliation for their criticism of the government. The composers Paul Hindemith
and Hans Eisler, unknown at the time, were active in the cabarets; so also were the
playwright Bertolt Brecht and the composer Kurt Weill, whose
(The Threepenny Opera, 1928) established their reputations and the stardom of the
singer Lotte Lenya. The musical show Cabaret (1966) and a film version (1972)
portrayed the 1930s German cabaret. The cabaret survives in post-World War II
Germany as a forum for topical satire, but it has lost most of its political significance.
"Cabaret" Encyclopædia Britannica Online.