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Jacques Offenbach
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  • French/German
  • 20th June 1819 - 5th October 1880
  • You may know him for: Can-Can (actual title: The Galop, from Orpheus in the Underworld), The Tales of Hoffman

French composer and cellist of German-Jewish descent, who created the burlesque comic opera known as „operette“. Offenbach was born in Cologne, Germany on 20. June 1819 and received cello- and violin lessons at a young age. His father recognized the boy´s talents and took him to Paris in 1833, where Jacques enrolled as a student of the cellist Luigi Cherubini at the conservatory. However, he discontinued his study soon and became a cellist at various boulevard-theatres and at the opera-comique. After converting to Catholicism he married Hermine d´Alcain in 1844 and in 1849 he became conductor of the Theatre-Francais.

In 1855 Offenbach opened a theatre of his own, the Bouffes-Parisiens, where he performed many of his celebrated operettas. The first one was “Orphee aux enfers” (Orpheus in the Underworld) which is recognized as the first of its kind. He then produced operettas in Germany and in Vienna (1864, “The Rhine Nymphs”). Returning to Paris he composed the successful operettas “La Belle Helene (1865), “La Vie Parisienne” (1866),”La Grande Duchesse de Gerolstein” (1867) and “La Perichole” (1868).

After the French-German war (1870/71) the public seemed to avoid him and his works, probably because of his German origin. To improve his financial situation he went on a tour of the U.S.A. After his return Offenbach started composing his only grand opera “Les Contes d´Hoffmann” (1877, The Tales of Hoffmann) which is the most frequently performed French opera besides Bizet´s “Carmen”. Jacques Offenbach died in Paris on 5. October 1880.

Offenbach composed in a fluent, lively and catchy style. The actions in his operettas often reflect the customs, important people and events of the time in a very satirical way. His best known tunes are probably the cancan from “Orpheus in the Underworld” and the barcarole from “The Tales of Hoffmann”.

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