Jacques Offenbach

German, naturalized French composer and cellist (Cologne, 1819 – Paris, 1880)

Offenbach was born in Germany of a musician father, cantor in a synagogue, who adopted the name of his natal city, Offenbach-am-Main, following a Napoleonic decree. Very early, Jacques Offenbach showed true talent for the cello, which brought his father to send him study in Paris. Offenbach joined the Conservatoire wanting to become a soloist. But the young boy is inattentive and was expelled only a year after his arrival. Thanks to his talent, he still give concerts - after having  adapting his name to French - and got admitted in the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique. He played for the ensemble in parallel to his own career.

He made a name for himself thanks to his light melodies and became the music director of the Comédie Française in 1847. Eight years later, he decided to open his own theater in order to produce his own pieces: the venue of the Bouffes-Parisiens was inaugurated in 1855. There he created successfully his first opéra-bouffe, Orpheus in the Underworld (1858). His following operas (The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, La Vie parisienne, Les brigands) had the same warm welcome. Attentive to the audience's tastes, Offenbach turned to the opéra-bouffe-féerie (Le Roi Carotte) and later to the patriotic opera (La Fille du Tambour-Major).

Offenbach died a few months before the premiere of the opera that would bring him the recognition he yearned for so dearly, The Tales of Hoffman. It is still today one of the most played French operas.

Six landmark dates in the life of Jacques Offenbach

• 1835: Offenbach left the Conservatoire, then the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique
• 1847: music director of the Comédie Française
• 1855: creation of the theater Bouffes-Parisiens by Offenbach
• 1860: obtained the French nationality
• 1873: director of the Théâtre de la Gaîté
• 1876: tour in the United States

Six pieces by Jacques Offenbach

• 1858: Orpheus in the Underworld, opéra-bouffe in 2 acts and 4 scenes (the version of 1874 was in 4 acts et 12 scenes)
• 1864: La Belle-Hélène, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts
• 1866: La Vie parisienne, opéra-bouffe in 5 acts (the version of 1873 is in 4 acts)
• 1867: The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts et 4 scenes
• 1868: La Périchole, opéra-bouffe in 3 acts and 4 scenes (version of 1874 ; initially in 2 acts)
• 1881 (posthumous): The Tales of Hoffmann, fantastical opera in 5 acts