Offenbach, Jacques

BORN 20 Jun 1819, Köln, Nordrhein-Westfalen - DIED 5 Oct 1880, Paris
BIRTH NAME Offfenbach, Jacob
GRAVE LOCATION Paris: Cimetière de Montmartre, 20 Avenue Rachel (division 09)

Jacques Offenbach was born as Jakob Offenbach to a Jewish family in Cologne. His father had been a bookbinder before he became a cantor in synagogues and played the violin in cafés. His father taught him the violin and when he was nine he also learned to play the cello. He performed with his brother Julius and his sister Isabella in cafés and dance halls. In 1833 his father took him and his brother Jules to the Conservatoire in Paris. It was hard to persuade Cherubini to listen to him, but when he heard him he admitted him instantly.

Jules graduated from the Conservatoire, but Jacques left after a year. In 1835 he obtained a position as cellist at the Opéra-Comique and he took lessons with Louis-Pierre Norblin. Fromental Halévy taught him composition and orchestration. At the salon of the comtesse de Vaux he met Hérminie d'Alcain (1827-1887). The fell in love but he was in no position to marry. He toured in France and Germany. In Cologne he performed with Liszt, elsewhere with Anton Rubinstein. He also toured England, where he was received enthousiastically. Back in Paris he converted to Catholicism and he married Hérminie on 14 August 1844.

He concentrated more on composition than on the cello. During the revolution of 1848 he was in Cologne with Hérminie and their young daughter. In 1849 he returned to Paris. Between 1853 and 1855 he wrote his first one act operettas and they were staged in Paris. "Le violoneux" made a star of Hortense Schneider in 1855 in her first role in a piece by Offenbach. After the government lifted certain restrictions, in October 1858 his first full operetta "Orphée aux enfers" was staged. In 1860 Napoleon III personally granted him French citizenship and he was appointed Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur in 1861.

In 1864 "La belle Hélène" was staged, again with Hortense Schneider. Other successes like "La Vie parisienne" (1866) and "La Périchole" (1868) followed. These operettas all had librettos by Henri Meilhac.

When the Second Empire fell in 1870 he and his work were suddenly out of favour in Paris, but in England he was still popular. The Gaiety staged 15 of his works between 1870 and 1872. In 1873 he took over the Théâtre de la Gaîté in Paris. He cooperated with Victorien Sardou, but the venture failed and left him in debt. In 1876 he successfully toured the USA and gave a series of fourty concerts in New York and Philadelphia.

Back in France he enjoyed new success with "Madame Favart" (1878) and "La fille du tambour-major" (1879). By this time his health failed. He desperately wanted to finish his opera "Les contes d'Hoffmann" but he died in 1880 in Paris before it was completed. The opera was finished by his son Auguste and Ernest Guiraud and it premiered at the Opéra-Comique on 10 February 1881. In December 1881 it was staged in Vienna as well.

Related persons
• had work performed by Geistinger, Marie
• was pupil of Halévy, Fromental
• has a connection with Judic, Anna
• performed with Liszt, Franz
• employed Meilhac, Henri
• cooperated with Méry, Joseph
• had work performed by Schneider, Hortense
• influenced Suppé, Franz von
• has a connection with Tessandier, Aimee

31/8/1855Premiere of Offenbach's "Le violoneux" with Hortense Schneider. It was performed at the Théâtre des Bouffes Parisiens in Paris. It was Schneider's first role for Offenbach. [Schneider, Hortense]
21/10/1858Premiere of Offenbach's "Orphée aux enfers" at the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens in Paris 
17/12/1864Premiere of Offenbach's "La belle Hélène" with Hortense Schneider. It was performed at the Théâtre des Variétés, Paris. Hortense Schneider and José Dupuis were the main stars. [Schneider, Hortense]
5/2/1866Premiere of Offenbach's "Barbe-bleue" with José Dupuis and Hortense Schneider. It was performed at the Théâtre des Variétés, Paris and had a run of five months. [Schneider, Hortense]
12/4/1867Premiere of "La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein" with Hortense Schneider at the Théâtre des Variétés in Paris. It was written and conducted by Jacques Offenbach and Hortense Schneider was the Grand Duchess. In the audience were Pauline von Metternich and the famous critic Hanslick. [Hanslick, Eduard][Schneider, Hortense]
6/10/1868Premiere of Offenbach's "La Périchole" with Hortense Schneider in the title role. It was performed at the Théâtre des Variétés, Paris. [Schneider, Hortense]
25/4/1874Premiere of the revised version of "La Périchole". Hortense Schneider performed the title part in the operetta by Offenbach like she had done in the original version of 1868. [Schneider, Hortense]


The grave of Jacques Offenbach at the Montmartre Cimetière, Paris.
Picture by Androom (05 Nov 2017)


Jacques Offenbach - Wikipedia
La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein - Wikipedia
Orpheus in the Underworld - Wikipedia
Barbe-bleue (opera) - Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
La belle Hélène - Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
La Périchole - Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Le violoneux - Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core

Ohm, Georg Simon

Published: 10 Jun 2019
Last update: 09 Nov 2022