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Jacques Offenbach (Cologne, June 20, 1819 – Paris, October 5, 1880) was a Jewish-German composer and cellist born in the Germanic Confederation, converted to Catholicism and nationalized French, creator of modern operetta and musical comedy. He was one of the most influential composers of nineteenth-century European popular music.
He was born in Deutz, today a neighborhood of the city of Cologne, in the bosom of a Jewish family, with the name of Jakob. His parents were the bookbinder, music teacher and composer Isaac Juda Eberst and Marianne Rindskopf, who shortly before his birth changed his surname to the name of his father’s hometown, Offenbach am Main, near Frankfurt. He studied violoncello and violin. In 1833 he moved to Paris, where he was a pupil of Luigi Cherubini at the Conservatory. He was a cellist of various orchestras, including the Opéra-Comique.
In 1844 he had to convert to the Catholic religion in order to be able to marry the Spanish Herminia de Alcain -whose name in French is Herminie d’Alcain- of 18 years of age. In 1848 he fled France in the face of the revolutionary events that took place, returning the following year. In 1849 he was appointed conductor at the Théâtre français.
In 1855 he founded the theater «Bouffes Parisiens», where he staged his own works, which reflect the joie de vivre of his time, with humor and irreverence. La Belle Hèléne is an apology for the ménage a trois. He also presented entertaining adaptations of other geniuses of music such as G. Rossini, whose opera Il signor Bruschino managed to perform with great success.
With the fall of the Empire of Napoleon III his tastes resisted and created the Théâtre de la Gaité, failing him. He toured the United States, also without much success. His German ancestry earned him enemies after the Prussian-French War; it reflected with irony these enemies representing them in their operettas, even though these characters were from antiquity.
According to Karl Krauss, Offenbach «fulfills the function of remedying stupidity, giving a break to reason and stimulating mental activity». His most serious and ambitious work was The Tales of Hoffmann, which did not conclude because of his death in 1880. His remains rest in the Montmartre Cemetery.
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