During the lifetime of the outstanding French composer received a second, no less sonorous and memorable name. With a light filing of Gioacchino Rossini, he was called the Mozart of the Champs Elysees. Indeed, despite its German origin, it was in France that Jacques Offenbach received the highest recognition, and his talent was appreciated by both critics and the public. Being the founder of the operetta genre, this outstanding musician was able to skillfully pick up the keys to the hearts of viewers, greedy for entertaining theatrical performances with a pronounced lyrical and social overtones.
A brief biography of Jacques Offenbach and many interesting facts about the composer can be found on our page.
Short biography of Offenbach
Jacques Offenbach was born in the German city of Cologne in 1819, on June 20. The couple Eberst (the real name of the father of Jacques) at that time already had six children. In the future, three more babies appeared in the family, but not all the heirs managed to show interest and ability to music, despite the fact that the parents were not alien to art. Isaac Eberst, a Jewish cantor, played on the violin and taught singing. Before devoting his life to serving in the synagogue, he made a living doing book restoration.
At the age of six, Jacques began to master the basics of playing the stringed instrument and was very successful. After 2 years, the boy began to write songs, and when he was 9 years old, the parents decided that his son should turn his attention to cello. Mother and father decided that the violin takes away too much power from the child: Jacques had poor health since childhood. The cello game fascinated the younger boy, a year later he flawlessly performed quartet parts. Joseph Haydn, and at the age of 13, Jacques Offenbach performed for the first time on the stage of the concert hall in Cologne, where he performed original works.
In 1833, Jacques began his studies at the Paris Conservatoire. In higher education there was a rule: not to accept students of foreign origin to classes. However, Jacques was assisted by his father. He literally begged the famous teacher Luigi Cherubini to listen to the play of his son in the author's performance. As a result, Jacques was enrolled in the course, but he studied in Paris for only a year: Offenbach did not like to attend classes, which is why he missed many lessons and ignored the prescriptions.
In 1844, Jacques married. In Ermini D'Alkan, daughter of the Spanish military, who led the ranks of the reactionary part, the composer fell in love with the first meeting. It took place in the late 30s in one of the salons, which was frequented by Offenbach. However, the composer was in no hurry to offer his hands and hearts, as he was not sure about his own financial viability. In 1844, a talented musician significantly improved his financial situation, making a tour of the UK. In London, the composer was extremely warm, it was an absolute triumph, the genius of Offenbach in the press did not hesitate to compare with absolute inspiration, and the musician was called "an amazing cellist" whose performance gives rise to pleasure.
In 1849 Offenbach’s musical activity began to grow rapidly. Soon he received the post of conductor in the French state theater "Comedie Francaise". In Opera-Comique, Jacques was listed as a cellist, but his service in this institution was constantly marked by ambiguous, scandalous situations. Constant fines, in view of which the musician had almost no wages, and discontent with the repertoire pushed Jacques to dismissal.
In 1855 Offenbach founded his own theater and the boulevard of his Bouffes-Parisiens. The initial repertoire consisted of pantomimes and musical miniatures, and later the basis was composed of operettas. In 1858, after the successful premiere of "Orpheus in Hell", a difficult period began in the life of Offenbach. The composer was forced to face an ambiguous reaction to his work. Negative reviews of critics, oddly enough, in a favorable way set off the delight of the public, drawing even more attention of the interested public to the operetta and its author.
The Franco-Prussian War, which broke out in 1870, literally drove Offenbach into a dead end, plunging into moral and factual hopelessness. The French saw the artist as an ideological enemy, because of his origin, and the Germans everywhere accused Jacques of treason and espionage. The theater, under the leadership of Offenbach, was declared bankrupt to cover financial debts, the composer goes on tour to the USA, where he is greeted surprisingly hospitably and without bias. In the late 70s, Jacques returned to Paris, where he again worked fruitfully, despite the public’s fading interest in his works.
In recent years, Offenbach devoted his time to working on the opera "Tales of Hoffmann", but did not have time to finish it. On October 5, 1880, the French composer died. The cause was an attack of asphyxiation. Offenbach was buried in the northern region of Paris, within the boundaries of the Montmartre necropolis.
- Jacques's father changed his last name in 1808, when he tied himself in holy bonds of marriage with Marianne Reedskopf. Isaac decided to perpetuate in his initials the name of his native city, Offenbach am Main.
- Jacques was lucky to realize his own purpose early, which allowed him to start developing his musical abilities in a timely manner. In the period from 1831-1832, Offenbach, as a teenager, began to earn money, speaking in taverns with his brother Julius and his sister Isabella. Jacques played the cello, the other young members of the trio - the piano and violin.
- To marry his beloved woman, Jacques changed his religion, renouncing Judaism and becoming a Catholic. With Ermini Offenbach lived for 36 years, throughout his marriage, he showed himself as a faithful and loving husband, as opposed to the frivolous heroes of the works, flying out from under his pen. Five children were born in the marriage: 4 girls and a boy. Auguste was born last, in 1862, but already in 1883 he left this world.
- September 25, 1850 a tragic event occurred. Jacques suffered greatly during a concert in the city of Touraine (France). The dress of one of the invited ladies accidentally caught fire. Trying to save the woman from the fire, Offenbach began to extinguish the flame with his bare hands, resulting in severe burns. The injuries temporarily deprived the musician of the opportunity to perform, but the much more sad news was the news of the death of the injured Madame De Vine, which was announced 4 days after the incident.
- Offenbach turned into a sign in life. Superstitious people perceived the composer as a bad omen. For his eyes, Jacques was called "Jettatore", which translated from Italian means "evil eye", in a more loose interpretation this word can be interpreted as "exorcist". G. Flaubert noted in his satirical collection of aphorisms "The Lexicon of Common Truths" that in society, when Offenbach's name was mentioned, it was customary to cover two fingers of his right hand so as not to incur the unkindness of himself.
- Offenbach was the owner of an outstanding appearance, so often became a hero of caricatured images. A slim figure, a crochet nose, a narrow face in edging of impressive light tanks - all of this together was part of a recognizable image. Specificity of appearance Jacques tried to compensate for the creation of an elegant appearance. However, he did not always succeed. Satin black tie - the only thing in the wardrobe, which Jacques invariably preferred, was otherwise not observed. Rather the opposite. Offenbach’s dresses always looked extravagant, the brightness was combined with avant-garde shocking. The composer did not consider it shameful to wear jackets with an intricate pattern, high boots with tassels, a dark velvet dress coat and a shiny belt with a massive buckle, and even periodically put all these things on at the same time.
- Offenbach was involved in a scandal involving copyright infringement. Composer Adolphe Adam sued Jacques, stating that in the summer of 1852 he, at a public event, performed the humorous couplets composed by Adam and refused to pay the author. As a result, the court ordered Jacques to pay compensation in the amount of 25 francs, the same amount had to be paid as a fine.
- Jacques was distinguished by consistency in his preferences regarding gastronomic delights. He loved to dine at one of the 4 favorite restaurants. If the choice fell on the institution Le Riche, the meal invariably consisted of the following dishes: 3 boiled eggs, a slice of toasted bread, lamb cutlet, mashed potatoes in the form of a side dish, and for dessert - fruit.
- Jacques Offenbach had a controversial character, which gave his personality a special flair of mysticism and mystery. Like any talented person, he was prone to skepticism and mood swings. In a circle of friends, the composer often became the soul of the company, a cheerful storyteller and an attentive, grateful listener. Being observant and insightful, Offenbach with enviable accuracy noticed the character traits of the interlocutor, which later were reflected in the characters of his operettas. Often, however, alone with himself, Offenbach plunged into a depressive, oppressive state.
- The maestro was a passionate player. He loved gambling, if possible, did not miss the chance to experience Fortune. Once, at the height of the summer of 1869, during the premiere of the operetta Trapezunskaya Princess, the author took an interval between actions to play roulette.
- Offenbach extremely reverent attitude to his creative team. Over the libretto to the majority of his operettas, Henri Meliac and Louis Halevy worked. The composer, who was accustomed to working in an active rhythm, valued these authors as colleagues, but sometimes he was demanding of them and even showed some despotism. “See, think, work” - with such words, persistently and instructively hurried, encouraged and tried to set Offenbach his faithful companions into the working mode, preventing them from switching to other projects or relaxing after another successful premiere.
Creativity Jacques Offenbach
In the 1930s, Offenbach’s career in art was just beginning to gain momentum. This period was marked by work in the orchestra, as well as collaboration with the German composer Friedrich von Flotov, a representative of the romantic trend in music of that time.
By the mid-1950s, Offenbach was already the owner of his own concert hall, but still had to put up with conservative censorship regulating the structure and content of works for theatrical productions. At this time, the creative work of Offenbach very well "fit" in the proper rules, and therefore with enviable consistency presented to the audience. The performances in the operetta genre were to consist of one act, and the number of characters was limited to three characters, the participation of the choir in the productions was excluded. The first show of the work "Orpheus in hell", which took place in 1858, made a sensation in this context. It was a sensation in the theatrical world. The author presented to the sophisticated bohemian society the work of two acts, each of which had 2 scenes. The free interpretation of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice turned into an obvious metaphor personifying the bourgeois order of the newly formed Second Empire.
Jacques Offenbach is called the father of the Viennese operetta, the creator who stood at the origins of genre. He created the play "Orpheus in Hell" was in the Austrian capital, a huge success. Operetta became a kind of stable basis for the composer’s further success in this genre, and also served as an inspiration for the works of talented followers, including Johann Strauss.
Virtually every operetta of Offenbach is marked by a satirical look: the author ridicules the snobbery inherent in the highest class of European society, as well as individuals, more often - prominent political figures. Sentimentality to the majority of similar musical sketches is unusual, but bright irony, wit and positive mood are present in abundance. This is confirmed to the highest degree by the operetta’s warmly received by the public "Beautiful Elena"(1864) and"Paris life" (1866).
With the beginning of the 60s, an unexpressed creative crisis emerged in the work of Offenbach. The composer continued to work diligently, but noted that the capricious audience was fed up with his creations, and every year it becomes more difficult to surprise and laugh the viewer. At the forefront are new talents that can discourage non-trivial presentation and original plot. After the defeat of France in the war with Prussia, the tastes of the demanding public changed completely, “giving” Offenbach, once favored by the attention, with the unenviable secret title of a ghost, which the Second Empire itself became.
In the late 70s, the composer began work on an opera based on the works of Ernest Hoffmann. This work was extremely important for Jacques: he saw in it a salvation from the twilight of non-existence, into which numerous refusals of the French opera houses plunged him. Fate decreed that the composer failed to complete the embodiment of his grandiose plan: the author managed to create a prologue and the first act of the work "Tales of Hoffmann“. By the end of his life, Offenbach clearly felt a bitter aftertaste of disappointment and regretted that he had spent so much time directly on the operetta as the main genre of his work.
Despite the fact that the authorship of the French composer belong to more than 110 stage works and an impressive number of instrumental compositions, Jacques Offenbach yet became famous for his operetta. These well-known musical performances are a "burning" mix of social plot satire, memorable melodies and bright, dynamic, sometimes provocative for their era, dances. Offenbach, by virtue of talent and hard work, earned and managed to experience fame, recognition, honor during his lifetime. The legislator of the genre, cellist, conductor, virtuoso musician became a symbol of the Parisian musical culture of the second half of the XIX century.