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Jacques Offenbach

 1819 - 1880Jacques Offenbach Photo: Portrait by F Grünewald (1881)


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Born the son of a Jewish cantor in Cologne * Aged 14, Jacques Offenbach begins cello study at the Paris Conservatory * After a successful career as a cellist shows increasing interest in music theatre * Studies with Fromental Halévy * In 1850 appointed music director at the Comédie-Francaise, and in 1855 founds his own theatre, the Bouffes-Parisiens * Great success with buffonesque one-act works (Les Deux Aveugles, Ba-Ta-Clan, Croquefer) * His first full-time opéra-bouffon Orphée aux Enfers signifies his international breakthrough * He creates the genre of the satirical music theatre, later called 'Offenbachiade' * After exploring the ballet (Le Papillon, 1860), the opéra-comique (Barkouf 1861) and the great Romantic opera (Les Fées du Rhin, 1864), Offenbach produces a number of comic, triumphantly successful works in cooperation with the congenial pair of libretto writers, Meilhac and Halévy: La Belle Hélène, La Vie parisienne, La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, La Périchole and Les Brigands, all composed after 1864, conquer stages around the world * His popularity as a master of popular music theatre has prevented the acknowledgement of his eminent talent in the composition of 'serious' music: masterpieces such as Fantasio (after de Musset, 1872) and Les Fées du Rhin are only now gaining the appreciation they deserve * Offenbach dies on 5 October, 1880, shortly before the first performance of his unfinished opera, Les Contes d'Hoffmann

Works by Jacques Offenbach include:
Orphée aux Enfers, opéra-bouffon and opéra-féerie versions (1858, 1874)
Les Fées du Rhin, grand opéra romantique, 1864
La Belle Hélène, opéra-bouffe (1864)
La Vie parisienne, opéra-bouffe, versions 1866 (Paris, Vienna), 1867 (Bruxelles), 1874 (Paris)
Barbe-Bleu, opéra-bouffe (1866)
La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, opéra-bouffe (1867)
La Périchole, opéra-bouffe (1868, 1874)
Les Brigands, opéra-bouffe (1869, 1878)
Fantasio, opéra-comique (1872)

The Offenbach Edition Keck – OEK – makes the better-known repertoire works as well as numerous unknown treasures by the "Mozart of the Champs-Elysées" integrally and critically available for the first time

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John Adams

American composer whose minimalist-inspired works include the opera Nixon in China.

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