French composer. He wrote light opera, initially for presentation at the Bouffes Parisiens. Among his works are Orphée aux enfers/Orpheus in the Underworld (1858, revised 1874), La belle Hélène (1864), and Les contes d'Hoffmann/The Tales of Hoffmann (1881).
Offenbach was born at Cologne, where his father was cantor at the synagogue. He was sent to Paris early in his youth, studying at the Conservatory 1833–37, perfecting himself in playing the cello, and then playing in the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique even before he left the Conservatory. In 1850 he became conductor at the Théâtre Français. In 1853 he produced his first operettas and during a quarter of a century he turned out nearly 100 light stage pieces. In 1855 he took over the management of the Théâtre Comte and renamed it the Bouffes Parisiens. This lasted until 1861, after which he had no theatre of his own until 1873, when he managed the Théâtre de la Gaîté until 1875. In 1876–77 he was in the USA, but returned to Paris, where he had some of his greatest successes. He was also popular abroad, and such works as La belle Hélène, La vie parisienne, and La Périchole helped establish musical comedy as a significant form, leading to Johann Strauss, Sullivan, and the great Broadway musicals. His only large-scale opera, Les contes d'Hoffmann, occupied him for many years, but he left it not quite finished at his death, and it was revised and partly scored by Guiraud.
WorksOpera opera Les contes d'Hoffmann (1881), The Goldsmith of Toledo (after a tale by E T A Hoffmann) a pasticcio of various operettas; 89 operettas, including Barbe-bleue (1866), Ba-ta-clan (1855), La belle Hélène (1864), Chanson de Fortunio, Le Docteur Ox (after Jules Verne), La Fille du tambour-major (1879), La Foire de Saint-Laurent, Geneviève de Brabant (1859), La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (1867), L'Île de Tulipatan, La Jolie Parfumeuse, Madame Favart, Orphée aux enfers (1858), La Périchole (1874), Princesse de Trébizonde, Robinson Crusoe (after Defoe, 1867), Vert-Vert, La Vie Parisienne (1866), Voyage dans la lune (after Verne), Whittington and his Cat (1874), Le Corsaire noir, (1919).
Stage ballet Le Papillon; incidental music for Barrière's Le Gascon and Sardou's La Haine.
Other cello concerto.
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