Maps & Charts


Glossary: Cabaret

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 Die Dreigroschenoper (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.