OK

Sorry, my French is truly bad, but I hope you get the point. Jacques Offenbach, born Jacob or Jakob, in Cologne, in what was at the time of his birth, Prussia. A prodigious talent with the Cello who composed by his own count over 100 light operas.

Although the number is questioned, and most of the works he composed are regarded as operetta, rather than opera. There is no doubt as to his talent. As a young child he studied violin, moving on to the cello at the age of nine.

At the age of 14, he and his brother Jules, 18, travelled with their father to Paris, to the  Paris Conservatoire, under Luigi Cherubini where they were enrolled as students. A feat denied to Franz Liszt a few years earlier. Whilst Jules was a model student, Jacques was less than such, bored by study, and with an impish proclivity for pranks he left after a year. Jacques, sought work as a cellist, and part time conductor. Writing and performing some of his own works, to pay his bills, whilst he lived in Paris.  His reputation grew. He was employed in a permanent position as cellist at the Opera Comique, where his predilection for tomfoolery continued. Often fined for his pranks, such as sabotaging music stands, never the less he earned enough to continue taking lessons on the cello and in composing.

In order to increase his reputation he undertook several tours, including one to England, where he performed by Royal command, at Windsor. The success of these tours enabled Offenbach to marry his love Hérminie d'Alcain, after converting to Roman Catholicism. He and Hérminie remained lifelong partners. As his reputation grew he moved from being a cellist who composed, to a composer who played cello. Offenbach wrote Burlesques for the Paris salons until the 1848 revolution. At which time His wife and daughter left with him for Cologne. Upon his return he found the grand salons closed down. He returned to work at the Opera-Comique, where he composed several popular songs. The management of the company were however not interested in staging any of his operatic works.

At this point Offenbach purchased the lease on a small theatre. Opening as the "Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens". He was at last free to perform his own works. Although restricted by the licence terms. The theatre was a great success. In the winter the company moved to Salle Choiseul.  This continued until 1861, when new legislation prevented performances at both theatres. At this point performances at Salle Lacaze were cancelled. By order of Napoleon III Jacques Offenbach was granted French citizenship in 1860, and granted the Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in the following year.

A brief period in self imposed exile came about in 1870 due to the Franco-Prussian war, He returned to Paris in 1871, although due to his birthright, his Paris audience largely abandoned him. A very successful tour in America helped restore his reputation and bank balance. Offenbach was a profligate spender of money, his performances were lavish with metres of satin and silk used in the costumes.

Offenbach compositions were for the most part irreverent comedies including La Vie Parisienne, Orphée aux enfers and La Belle Helene. His final work, uncompleted before his death in 1881, "Les contes fantastiques d'Hoffmann", however was meant to be a "serious" opera. It  was completed by his only son Auguste, and has become a notable standard for performance into the 21st century.  It is not unfair to say that he inspired the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan, and his music continues to be loved today.

Here is a piece from The tales of Hoffman. "Les oiseaux dans la charmille"

Originally posted to Tailgunner30uk on Wed Nov 27, 2013 at 03:36 PM PST.

Also republished by Theatricals and History for Kossacks.

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