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On This Day… October 5

Today we head over to France, and a composer who was one of the early originators of the operetta form. Though born in Germany, he spent most of his working life there, dying in Paris on the 5th of October, 1880. He is Jacques Offenbach.

Originally born Jacob Offenbach in 1819 in Cologne, his father took him to Paris in 1833 and managed to get him accepted as a cello student in the Paris Conservetoire, but financial difficulties forced him out by the end of 1834. In 1850, he became conductor of the Theatre Francais, however the musical theater establishment didn’t approve of his pointed songs and music. In 1855, he founded the Bouffes Parisiens, which allowed him to explore this music in the form of one act operas. In 1858, restrictions were lifted which allowed him to complete his first full-length work, Orpheus and the Underground. In total, Offenbach wrote over 100 operettas, many of which are still performed today. His last work, The Tales of Hoffman is considered to be his only Grand Opera, and was still unfinished at his death in 1880. His friend, Ernest Guiraud, completed it and premiered it in 1881.

It is from this work, that we take our selections today, with Anne Sophie von Otter and Stephanie d’Oustrac performing the Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffman. Then we hear Sumi Jo with a great encore performance of Offenbach’s Doll Song.

No Can-can I’m afraid. Couldn’t find a version I liked. I’d love to hear your comments about Offenbach’s music. Did you like these performances? Are you a fan of the can-can?

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