Offenbach, Jacques Levy ô´fənbäk, Fr. zhäk lāvē´ ôfĕnbäk´ [key]
, 1819–80, French composer, b. Cologne. The son of a cantor, he went to Paris to study at the conservatory and in 1849 became a conductor at the Théâtre Français. The most successful composer of French operettas, he wrote more than 100 of them, the most successful of which perhaps was Orphée aux enfers
(1858). Others include La Belle Hélène
(1864), La Vie parisienne
(1866), La Grande Duchesse de Gérolstein
(1867), and La Périchole
(1868). Witty, fresh, gay, and cleverly orchestrated, they were immensely popular during the Second Empire, which they often satirized. Offenbach's one serious opera, Les Contes d'Hoffmann
( Tales of Hoffmann,
1881), after E. T. A. Hoffmann, was his masterpiece. Unfinished at his death, the opera was produced posthumously, and in 1951 it was made into a motion picture combining opera and ballet.
See his Orpheus in America (1877, tr. 1957).
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