Offenbach, Orphée aux enfers, 1858
Friday September 22nd
Jacques Offenbach, 1819-1880
Did you know him
only by the beautiful
Tales of Hoffman?
Wait, there’s more!
Offenbach is credited
with writing in a
fluent, elegant style
and with a highly
developed sense of
and satire (particularly
in his irreverent
he was called by Gioachino Rossini “our little Mozart of the
Champs-Elysées.” Indeed, he was almost as prolific as Mozart.
He wrote more than 100 stage works, many of which,
transcending topical associations, were maintained in the
repertory of the 21st century. (More from Encyc. Brit.)
He was also possibly the most wonderfully caricatured
face of nineteenth century music! Go here for images of
the man to the Can-can from Orphée and the Barcarolle.
Here comes Operetta
If Orpheus in the Underworld reminds you of G&S
(complete with patter songs) it is clearly related.
Offenbach was “a powerful influence on later composers
of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss,
Jr. and Arthur Sullivan. … In this respect Offenbach
was both well served and skilful at discovering
talent. In 1856 Offenbach wrote a disquisition on the
gradual divergence of Italian and French notions of
comic opera, with verve, imagination and gaiety
from Italian composers, and cleverness, common
sense, good taste and wit from the French
composers. He concluded that comic opera had
become too grand and inflated. (excerpted from
article on Offenbach in Wikipedia).
Orphée aux enfers ("Orpheus in the Underworld"),
his first full-length operetta, followed in 1858. He
was to produce 18 more full-length operettas in his
Sending up the Orpheus legend
No, this is not the story as told from Greek myths –
he turned it entirely inside out with the simple
assumption that Orpheus and Eurydice were bored
with each other. All else follows if you don’t revere
those gods. (Jupiter is possibly a swipe at Napoleon
View the ‘Fly duet’ from our production here.
Jupiter in disguise – yes, as a fly - seduces Eurydice.
Opéra National de Lyon, live, 1997
Eurydice - Natalie Dessai,
Orphee - Vann Beuron,
Aristee/Pluton - Jean-Paul Fouchecourt,
Jupiter - Laurent Naouri,
L’Opinion Publique - Martine Olmeda.
Director - Laurent Pelly,
Conductor - Marc Minkowski. Review