In modern parlance a cabaret is similar to a nightclub variety show of song, dance, and music. As an artistic phenomenon, cabarets arose out of small groups of artists: painters, actors, designers, writers, singers, dancers, and musicians who desired a blending and sharing of artistic ideas and experimentation. The first of these cabarets, Chat Noir, opened in Paris in 1881. By the turn of the century, their popularity had spread across Europe to such cities as Berlin, Vienna, Munich, Barcelona, Moscow, St. Petersburg, London, and Zurich. Bertolt Brecht began as a cabaret singer, and Christopher Isherwood epitomized the form in his Berlin novels starring the cabaret-dancer, Sally Bowles, which formed the basis for the Kander and Ebb musical of Cabaret, but by the end of the 1920s, most had disbanded.

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