Those who can, can

Jacques Offenbach was born 200 years ago today in Cologne to a synagogue cantor and his wife.

He wrote close to 100 operettas, a body of work that defined Parisian life in the mid-19th century.

He also played a mean cello and double-bass.

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  • In addition to all that, he was a sought-after conductor, an international cello virtuoso, and the composer of his non-operetta masterpiece, Les Contes d’Hoffmann.

    • Plus another marvelous opera, Les Fees Du Rhin, whose first music is what we know as the Barcarolle from Les Contes d’Hoffmann.

  • On a point of information: technically, he only wrote about 20 “operettes” – the rest were operas bouffes, operas-comiques, and various other genres. He was very careful in making the distinction, and classifying them all as “operettas” tends to downplay the full scope of his achievement (remember that Carmen was an “opera-comique”; it’s a wide-ranging label).

    But still – what a genius! And still, how underrated. I’ve just listened to the entire Warner Classics 30 disc box, and been to Fantasio at Garsington, and he never flags, never fades, never gets any less fresh. Rossini called him “the Mozart of the Champs-Elysee” and for sheer melodic invention, I’d say he wasn’t far off the mark.

    • And of course, contains what was infamously later named as The Apache Dance, and used in countless of classic movies. There is even a version with Cantinflas!

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