Saturday, April 02, 2005

Cabaret: Closed

So I didn't get around to writing about cabaret as I had originally intended. The history and future of cabaret is a fascinating topic but vast and complex, a world not just of music, dance and performance but of political and social science. I realized, too, that I couldn't get excited to write about the ghosts of a form I wish were still thriving. People say "cabaret" and expect Parisian or Viennese bar-cafes and swirling tendrils of art nouveau decor; crass, scantily clad performers and the artists, composers, and writers holding court in their midst; enthusiastic conversations and debates about current events. But it's over. Nothing, not television, musical theatre, or the folk singer and her guitar at the Sunday afternoon open mic, comes close to the nostaligic idea of cabaret that lives in our minds. Today's composers run in and grab their lattes to go. In the same cafes, the writers bury their heads behind their laptops. No one is striking up a heated argument and tearing the arts section of the New York Times in half. Now wouldn't that be something?

Walking around Montmartre in January, I found the Lapin Agile (an historic venue where, oolala, maybe Satie mingled with Renoir and Eluard) with its door closed. Shut. Locked. Though the bright exterior looked well and recently tended, I saw no indicated hours of operation, even as a museum. I trudged up the hill towards Sacre Coeur thinking that time had put "cabaret" away and locked it behind a pretty painted door, just like that.


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