Jacques Offenbach


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Jacques Offenbach was a German-born French composer, cellist and impresario of the romantic period. He is remembered for his nearly 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann. He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr. and Arthur Sullivan. His best-known works were continually revived during the 20th century, and many of his operettas continue to be staged in the 21st. The Tales of Hoffman remains part of the standard opera repertory.

Early Years

Offenbach was born Jacob or Jakob Offenbach, to a Jewish family in the German city of Cologne, which was then a part of Prussia. His birthplace in the Großen Griechenmarkt was a short distance from the square that is now named after him, the Offenbachplatz. He was the second son and the seventh of ten children of Isaac Juda Offenbach né Eberst (1779–1850) and his wife Marianne, née Rindskopf (c. 1783–1840). Isaac, who came from a musical family, had abandoned his original trade as a bookbinder and earned an itinerant living as a cantor in synagogues and playing the violin in cafés. He was generally known as "der Offenbacher," after his native town, Offenbach am Main, and in 1808 he officially adopted Offenbach as a surname. In 1816 he settled in Cologne, where he became established as a teacher, giving lessons in singing, violin, flute and guitar, and composing both religious and secular music.

When Jacob was six years old, his father taught him to play the violin; within two years, the boy was composing songs and dances, and at the age of nine he took up the cello. As he was by then the permanent cantor of the local synagogue, Isaac could afford to pay for his son to take lessons from the well-known cellist Bernhard Breuer. Three years later, the biographer Gabriel Grovlez records that the boy was giving performances of his own compositions, "the technical difficulties of which terrified his master," Breuer. Together with his brother Julius (violin) and sister Isabella (piano), Jacob played in a trio at local dance halls, inns and cafés, performing popular dance music and operatic arrangements. In 1833, Isaac decided that the two most musically talented of his children, Julius (then aged 18) and Jacob (14) needed to leave the provincial musical scene of Cologne to study in Paris. With generous support from local music lovers and the municipal orchestra, with whom they gave a farewell concert on October 9, the two young musicians, accompanied by their father, made the four-day journey to Paris in November 1833.

Isaac had been given letters of introduction to the director of the Paris Conservatoire, Luigi Cherubini, but he needed all his eloquence to persuade Cherubini even to give Jacob an audition. The boy's age and nationality were both obstacles to admission. Cherubini had several years earlier refused the 12-year-old Franz Liszt admission on similar grounds, but he eventually agreed to hear the young Offenbach play. He listened to his playing and stopped him, saying, "Enough, young man, you are now a pupil of this Conservatoire." Julius was also admitted. Both brothers adopted French forms of their names, Julius becoming Jules and Jacob becoming Jacques.

Isaac hoped to secure permanent employment in Paris but failed to do so and returned to Cologne. Before leaving, he found a number of pupils for Jules; the modest earnings from those lessons, supplemented by fees earned by both brothers as members of synagogue choirs, supported them during their studies. At the conservatoire, Jules was a diligent student; he graduated and became a successful violin teacher and conductor, and led his younger brother's orchestra for several years. By contrast, Jacques was bored by academic study and left after a year. The conservatoire's roll of students notes against his name "Struck off on the 2 December 1834 (left of his own free will)."

Cello Virtuoso

Having left the conservatoire, Offenbach was free from the stern academicism of Cherubini's curriculum, but as the biographer James Harding writes, "he was free, also, to starve." He secured a few temporary jobs in theater orchestras before gaining a permanent appointment in 1835 as a cellist at the Opéra-Comique. He was no more serious there than he had been at the conservatoire, and regularly had his pay docked for playing pranks during performances; on one occasion, he and the principal cellist played alternate notes of the printed score, and on another they sabotaged some of their colleagues' music stands to make them collapse mid-performance. Nevertheless, his earnings from his orchestral work enabled him to take lessons with the celebrated cellist Louis-Pierre Norblin. He made a favorable impression on the composer and conductor Fromental Halévy, who gave him lessons in composition and orchestration and wrote to Isaac Offenbach in Cologne that the young man was going to be a great composer. Some of Offenbach's early compositions were programmed by the fashionable conductor Louis Antoine Jullien. Offenbach and another young composer, Friedrich von Flotow, collaborated on a series of works for cello and piano. Although Offenbach's ambition was to compose for the stage, he could not gain an entrée to Parisian theater at this point in his career; with Flotow's help, he built a reputation composing for and playing in the fashionable salons of Paris.

Among the salons at which Offenbach most frequently appeared was that of the comtesse de Vaux. There he met Hérminie d'Alcain (1827–1887), the daughter of a Carlist general. They fell in love, but he was not yet in a financial position to propose marriage. To extend his fame and earning power beyond Paris, he undertook tours of France and Germany. Among those with whom he performed were Anton Rubinstein and, in a concert in Offenbach's native Cologne, Franz Liszt. In 1844, probably through English family connections of Hérminie, he embarked on a tour of England. There he was immediately engaged to appear with some of the most famous musicians of the day, including Mendelssohn, Joseph Joachim, Michael Costa and Julius Benedict. The Era wrote of his debut performance in London, "His execution and taste excited both wonder and pleasure, the genius he exhibited amounting to absolute inspiration." The British press reported a triumphant royal command performance; The Illustrated London News wrote, "Herr Jacques Offenbach, the astonishing Violoncellist, performed on Thursday evening at Windsor before the Emperor of Russia, the King of Saxony, Queen Victoria, and Prince Albert with great success." The use of "Herr" rather than "Monsieur," reflecting the fact that Offenbach remained a Prussian citizen, was common to all the British press coverage of Offenbach's 1844 tour. The ambiguity of his nationality sometimes caused him difficulty in later life.

Offenbach returned to Paris with his reputation and his bank balance both much enhanced. The last remaining obstacle to his marriage to Hérminie was the difference in their professed religions; he converted to Roman Catholicism, with the comtesse de Vaux acting as his sponsor. Isaac Offenbach's views on his son's conversion from Judaism are unknown. The wedding took place on August 14, 1844; the bride was 17 years old, and the bridegroom was 25. The marriage was lifelong, and happy, despite some extramarital dalliances on Offenbach's part. After Offenbach's death, a friend said that Hérminie "gave him courage, shared his ordeals and comforted him always with tenderness and devotion."

Returning to the familiar Paris salons, Offenbach quietly shifted the emphasis of his work from being a cellist who also composed to being a composer who played the cello. He had already published many compositions, and some of them had sold well, but now he began to write, perform and produce musical burlesques as part of his salon presentations. He amused the comtesse de Vaux's 200 guests with a parody of Félicien David's currently fashionable Le désert, and in April 1846 gave a concert at which seven operatic items of his own composition were premiered before an audience that included leading music critics. After some encouragement and some temporary setbacks, he seemed on the verge of breaking into theatrical composition when Paris was convulsed by the 1848 revolution, which swept Louis Philippe from the throne and led to serious bloodshed in the streets of the capital. Offenbach hastily took Hérminie and their recently born daughter to join his family in Cologne. He thought it politic to revert temporarily to the name Jacob.

Returning to Paris in February 1849, Offenbach found the grand salons closed down. He went back to working as a cellist, and occasional conductor, at the Opéra-Comique, but was not encouraged in his aspirations to compose. His talents had been noted by the director of the Comédie Française, Arsène Houssaye, who appointed him musical director of the theater, with a brief to enlarge and improve the orchestra. Offenbach composed songs and incidental music for eleven classical and modern dramas for the Comédie Française in the early 1850s. Some of his songs became very popular, and he gained valuable experience in writing for the theater. Houssaye later wrote that Offenbach had done wonders for his theater. The management of the Opéra-Comique, however, remained uninterested in commissioning him to compose for its stage. The composer Debussy later wrote that the musical establishment could not cope with Offenbach's irony, which exposed the "false, overblown quality" of the operas they favored – "the great art at which one was not allowed to smile."

The Theatre Bouffes-Parisiens 

Between 1853 and 1855, Offenbach wrote three one-act operettas and managed to have them staged in Paris. They were all well-received, but the authorities of the Opéra-Comique remained unmoved. Offenbach found more encouragement from the composer, singer and impresario Florimond Ronger, known professionally as Hervé. At his theatre, the Folies-Nouvelles, which had opened the previous year, Hervé pioneered French light comic opera, or opérette. In The Musical Quarterly, Martial Teneo and Theodore Baker wrote, "Without the example set by Hervé, Offenbach might perhaps never have become the musician who penned Orphée aux Enfers, La belle Hélène, and so many other triumphant works." Offenbach approached Hervé, who agreed to present a new one-act operetta with words by Jules Moinaux and music by Offenbach, called Oyayaye ou La reine des îles. It was presented on June 26, 1855 and was well-received. Offenbach's biographer Peter Gammond describes it as "a charming piece of nonsense." The piece depicts a double-bass player, played by Hervé, shipwrecked on a cannibal island, who after several perilous encounters with the female chief of the cannibals makes his escape using his double-bass as a boat. Offenbach pressed ahead with plans to present his works himself at his own theater and to abandon further thoughts of acceptance by the Opéra-Comique.

Offenbach had chosen his theater, the Salle Lacaze in the Champs-Élysées. The location and the timing were ideal for him. Paris was about to be filled between May and November with visitors from France and abroad for the 1855 Great Exhibition. The Salle Lacaze was next to the exhibition site. He later wrote: "In the Champs-Élysées, there was a little theatre to let, built for [the magician] Lacaze but closed for many years. I knew that the Exhibition of 1855 would bring many people into this locality. By May, I had found twenty supporters and on 15 June I secured the lease. Twenty days later, I gathered my librettists and I opened the 'Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens.'"

The description of the theater as "little" was accurate: it could only hold an audience of 300, at most. It was therefore well suited to the tiny casts permitted under the prevailing licensing laws: Offenbach was limited to three speaking (or singing) characters in any piece. With such small forces, full-length works were out of the question, and Offenbach, like Hervé, presented evenings of several one-act pieces. The opening of the theater was a frantic rush, with less than a month between the issue of the licence and the opening night on July 5, 1855. During this period Offenbach had to "equip the theater, recruit actors, orchestra and staff, find authors to write material for the opening program – and compose the music." Among those he recruited at short notice was Ludovic Halévy, the nephew of Offenbach's early mentor Fromental Halévy. Ludovic was a respectable civil servant with a passion for the theater and a gift for dialogue and verse. While maintaining his civil service career he went on to collaborate (sometimes under discreet pseudonyms) with Offenbach in 21 works over the next 24 years.

Halévy wrote the libretto for one of the pieces in the opening program, but the most popular work of the evening had words by Moinaux. Les deux aveugles, "The Two Blind Men" is a comedy about two beggars feigning blindness. During rehearsals there had been some concern that the public might judge it to be in poor taste, but it was not only the hit of the season in Paris: it was soon playing successfully in Vienna, London and elsewhere. Another success that summer was Le violoneux, which made a star of Hortense Schneider in her first role for Offenbach. Aged 22 when she auditioned for him, she was engaged on the spot. From 1855 she was a key member of his companies through much of his career.

The Champs-Élysées in 1855 were not yet the grand avenue laid out by Baron Haussmann in the 1860s, but an unpaved allée. The public who were flocking to Offenbach's theater in the summer and autumn of 1855 could not be expected to venture there in the depths of a Parisian winter. He cast about for a suitable venue and found the Théâtre des Jeunes Élèves, known also as the Salle Choiseul or Théâtre Comte, in central Paris. He entered into partnership with its proprietor and moved the Bouffes-Parisiens there for the winter season. The company returned to the Salle Lacaze for the 1856, 1857, and 1859 summer seasons, performing at the Salle Choiseul in the winter. Legislation enacted in March 1861 prevented the company from using both theaters, and appearances at the Salle Lacaze were discontinued.

Salle Choiseul

Offenbach's first piece for the company's new home was Ba-ta-clan (December 1855), a well-received piece of mock-oriental frivolity, to a libretto by Halévy. He followed it with 15 more one-act operettas over the next three years. They were all for the small casts permitted under his licence, although at the Salle Choiseul he was granted an increase from three to four singers.

Under Offenbach's management, the Bouffes-Parisiens staged works by many composers. These included new pieces by Leon Gastinel and Léo Delibes. When Offenbach asked Rossini's permission to revive his comedy Il signor Bruschino, Rossini replied that he was pleased to be able to do anything for "the Mozart of the Champs-Élysées." Offenbach revered Mozart above all other composers. He had an ambition to present Mozart's neglected one-act comic opera Der Schauspieldirektor at the Bouffes-Parisiens, and he acquired the score from Vienna. With a text translated and adapted by Léon Battu and Ludovic Halévy, he presented it during the Mozart centenary celebrations in May 1856 as L'impresario; it was popular with the public and also greatly enhanced the critical and social standing of the Bouffes-Parisiens. By command of the emperor, Napoleon III, the company performed at the Tuileries palace shortly after the first performance of the Mozart piece.

In a long article in Le Figaro in July 1856, Offenbach traced the history of comic opera. He declared that the first work worthy to be called opéra-comique was Philidor's 1759 Blaise le savetier, and he described 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. His disquisition was a preliminary to the announcement of an open competition for aspiring composers. A jury of French composers and playwrights including Daniel Auber, Fromental Halévy, Ambroise Thomas, Charles Gounod and Eugène Scribe considered 78 entries; the five short-listed entrants were all asked to set a libretto, Le docteur miracle, written by Ludovic Halévy and Léon Battu. The joint winners were Georges Bizet and Charles Lecocq. Bizet became, and remained, a devoted friend of Offenbach. Lecocq and Offenbach took a dislike to one another, and their subsequent rivalry was not altogether friendly.

Although the Bouffes-Parisiens played to full houses, the theater was constantly on the verge of running out of money, principally because of what his biographer Alexander Faris calls "Offenbach's incorrigible extravagance as a manager." An earlier biographer, André Martinet, wrote, "Jacques spent money without counting. Whole lengths of velvet were swallowed up in the auditorium; costumes devoured width after width of satin." Moreover, Offenbach was personally generous and liberally hospitable. To boost the company's finances, a London season was organized in 1857, with half the company remaining in Paris to play at the Salle Choiseul and the other half performing at the St. James's Theatre in the West End of London. The visit was a success, but did not cause the sensation that Offenbach's later works did in London.

Orpheus in the Underworld

In 1858, the government lifted the licensing restrictions on the number of performers, and Offenbach was able to present more ambitious works. His first full-length operetta, Orphée aux enfers ("Orpheus in the Underworld"), was presented in October 1858. Offenbach, as usual, spent freely on the production, with scenery by Gustave Doré, lavish costumes, a cast of twenty principals, and a large chorus and orchestra.

As the company was particularly short of money following an abortive season in Berlin, a big success was urgently needed. At first the production seemed merely to be a modest success. It soon benefited from an outraged review by Jules Janin, the critic of the Journal des Débats; he condemned the piece for profanity and irreverence (ostensibly to Roman mythology but in reality to Napoleon and his government, generally seen as the targets of its satire). Offenbach and his librettist Hector Crémieux seized on this free publicity, and joined in a lively public debate in the columns of the Parisian daily newspaper Le Figaro. Janin's indignation made the public agog to see the work, and the box office takings were prodigious. Among those who wanted to see the satire of the emperor was the emperor himself, who commanded a performance in April 1860. Despite many great successes during the rest of Offenbach's career, Orphée aux enfers remained his most popular. Gammond lists among the reasons for its success, "the sweeping waltzes" reminiscent of Vienna but with a new French flavor, the patter songs, and "above all else, of course, the can-can which had led a naughty life in low places since the 1830s or thereabouts and now became a polite fashion, as uninhibited as ever."

In the 1859 season, the Bouffes-Parisiens presented new works by composers including Flotow, Jules Erlanger, Alphonse Varney, Léo Delibes, and Offenbach himself. Of Offenbach's new pieces, Geneviève de Brabant, though initially only a mild success, was later revised and gained much popularity where the duet of the two gendarmes became a favorite number in England and France and the basis for the Marines' Hymn in the U.S.

Early 1860s

The 1860s were Offenbach's most successful decade. At the beginning of 1860, he was granted French citizenship by the personal command of Napoleon III, and the following year he was appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur; this appointment scandalized those haughty and exclusive members of the musical establishment who resented such an honor for a composer of popular light opera. Offenbach began the decade with his only stand-alone ballet, Le papillon ("The Butterfly"), produced at the Opéra in 1860. It achieved what was then a successful run of 42 performances, without, as the biographer Andrew Lamb says, "giving him any greater acceptance in more respectable circles." Among other operettas in the same year, he finally had a piece presented by the Opéra-Comique, the three-act Barkouf. It was not a success; its plot revolved around a dog, and Offenbach attempted canine imitations in his music. Neither the public nor the critics were impressed, and the piece survived for only seven performances.

Apart from that setback, Offenbach flourished in the 1860s, with successes greatly outnumbering failures. In 1861, he led the company in a summer season in Vienna. Encountering packed houses and enthusiastic reviews, Offenbach found Vienna much to his liking. He even reverted, for a single evening, to his old role as a cello virtuoso at a command performance before Emperor Franz Joseph. That success was followed by a failure in Berlin. Offenbach, though born a Prussian citizen, observed, "Prussia never does anything to make those of our nationality happy." He and the company hastened back to Paris. Meanwhile, among his operettas that season were the full-length Le pont des soupirs and the one-act M. Choufleuri restera chez lui le....

In 1862, Offenbach's only son, Auguste, was born, the last of five children. In the same year, Offenbach resigned as director of the Bouffes-Parisiens, handing the post over to Alphonse Varney. He continued to write most of his works for the company, with the exception of occasional pieces for the summer season at Bad Ems. Despite problems with the libretto, Offenbach completed a serious opera in 1864, Die Rheinnixen, a hodgepodge of romantic and mythological themes. The opera was presented with substantial cuts at the Vienna Court Opera and in Cologne in 1865. It was not given again until 2002, when it was finally performed in its entirety. Since then it has been given several productions. It contained one number, the Elfenchor, described by the critic Eduard Hanslick as "lovely, luring and sensuous," which Ernest Guiraud later adapted as the Barcarolle in The Tales of Hoffmann. After December 1864, Offenbach wrote less frequently for the Bouffes-Parisiens, and many of his new works premiered at larger theaters.

Later 1860s

Between 1864 and 1868, Offenbach wrote four of the operettas for which he is chiefly remembered: La belle Hélène (1864), La Vie parisienne (1866), La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (1867) and La Périchole (1868). Halévy was joined as librettist for all of them by Henri Meilhac. 

For La belle Hélène, Offenbach secured Hortense Schneider to play the title role. Since her early success in his short operas, she had become a leading star of the French musical stage. She now commanded large fees and was notoriously temperamental, but Offenbach was adamant that no other singer could match her as Hélène. Rehearsals for the premiere at the Théâtre des Variétés were tempestuous, with Schneider and the principal mezzo-soprano feuding, the censor fretting about the satire of the imperial court, and the manager of the theater attempting to rein in Offenbach's extravagance with production expenses. Once again, the success of the piece was inadvertently assured by the critic Janin; his scandalized notice was strongly countered by liberal critics and the ensuing publicity again brought the public flocking.

Barbe-bleue was a success in early 1866 and was quickly reproduced elsewhere. La Vie parisienne later in the same year was a new departure for Offenbach and his librettists; for the first time in a large-scale piece they chose a modern setting, instead of disguising their satire under a classical cloak. It needed no accidental boost from Janin but was an instant and prolonged success with Parisian audiences, although its very Parisian themes made it less popular abroad. Gammond describes the libretto as "almost worthy of [W.S.] Gilbert," and Offenbach's score as "certainly his best so far." The piece starred Zulma Bouffar, who began an affair with the composer that lasted until at least 1875.

In 1867, Offenbach had his greatest success. The premiere of La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, a satire on militarism, took place two days after the opening of the Paris Exhibition, an even greater international draw than the 1855 exhibition which had helped him launch his composing career. The Parisian public and the foreign visitors flocked to the new operetta. The foreign royalty who saw the piece included the King of Prussia accompanied by his chief minister, Otto von Bismarck. Halévy, with his experience as a senior civil servant, saw more clearly than most the looming threat from Prussia; he wrote in his diary, "Bismarck is helping to double our takings. This time it's war we're laughing at, and war is at our gates." La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein was followed quickly by a series of successful pieces: Robinson CrusoéGeneviève de Brabant (revised version; both 1867), Le château à Toto, Le pont des soupirs (revised version) and L'île de Tulipatan (all in 1868).

In October 1868, La Périchole marked a transition in Offenbach's style, with less exuberant satire and more human romantic interest. Lamb calls it Offenbach's "most charming" score. There was some critical grumbling at the change, but the piece, with Schneider in the lead, did good business. It was quickly produced in Europe and both North and South America. Of the pieces that followed it at the end of the decade, Les brigands (1869) was another work that leaned more to romantic comic opera than to opéra bouffe. It was well-received, but has not subsequently been revived as often as Offenbach's best-known operettas.

War and Aftermath

Offenbach returned hurriedly from Ems and Wiesbaden before the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. He then went to his home in Étretat and arranged for his family to move to the safety of San Sebastián in northern Spain, joining them shortly afterwards. Having risen to fame under Napoleon III, satirized him, and been rewarded by him, Offenbach was universally associated with the old régime: he was known as "the mocking-bird of the Second Empire." When the empire fell in the wake of Prussia's crushing victory at Sedan (1870), Offenbach's music was suddenly out of favor. France was swept by violently anti-German sentiments, and despite his French citizenship and Légion d'honneur, his birth and upbringing in Cologne made him suspect. His operettas were now frequently vilified as the embodiment of everything superficial and worthless in Napoleon III's régime. La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein was banned in France because of its antimilitarist satire.

Although his Parisian audience deserted him, Offenbach had by now become highly popular in England. John Hollingshead of the Gaiety Theatre presented Offenbach's operettas to large and enthusiastic audiences. Between 1870 and 1872, the Gaiety produced 15 of his works. At the Royalty Theatre, Richard D'Oyly Carte presented La Périchole in 1875. In Vienna, too, Offenbach works were regularly produced. While the war and its aftermath ravaged Paris, the composer supervised Viennese productions and traveled to England as the guest of the Prince of Wales.

By the end of 1871, life in Paris had returned to normal, and Offenbach ended his voluntary exile. His new works Le roi Carotte (1872) and La jolie parfumeuse (1873) were modestly profitable, but lavish revivals of his earlier successes did better business. He decided to go back into theater management and took over the Théâtre de la Gaîté in July 1873. His spectacular revival of Orphée aux enfers there was highly profitable; an attempt to repeat that success with a new, lavish version of Geneviève de Brabant proved less popular. Along with the costs of extravagant productions, collaboration with the dramatist Victorien Sardou culminated in financial disaster. An expensive production of Sardou's La haine in 1874, with incidental music by Offenbach, failed to attract the public to the Gaîté, and Offenbach was forced to sell his interests in the Gaîté and to mortgage future royalties.

In 1876, a successful tour of the United States in connection with its Centennial Exhibition enabled Offenbach to recover some of his losses and pay his debts. Beginning with a concert at Gilmore's Garden before a crowd of 8,000 people, he gave a series of more than 40 concerts in New York and Philadelphia. To circumvent a Philadelphia law forbidding entertainments on Sundays, he disguised his operetta numbers as liturgical pieces and advertised a "Grand Sacred Concert by M. Offenbach". Dis-moi, Vénus from La belle Hélène became a "Litanie," and other equally secular numbers were billed as "Prière" or "Hymne." The local authorities were not deceived, and the concert did not take place. At Booth's Theater, New York, Offenbach conducted La vie parisienne and his recent (1873) La jolie parfumeuse. He returned to France in July 1876, with profits that were handsome but not spectacular.

Offenbach's later operettas enjoyed renewed popularity in France, especially Madame Favart (1878), which featured a fantasy plot about the real-life French actress Marie Justine Favart, and La fille du tambour-major (1879), which was the most successful of his operettas of the 1870s.

Last Years

Profitable though La fille du tambour-major was, composing it left Offenbach less time to work on his cherished project, the creation of a successful serious opera. Since the beginning of 1877, he had been working when he could on a piece based on a stage play, Les contes fantastiques d'Hoffmann, by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré. Offenbach had suffered from gout since the 1860s, often being carried into the theater in a chair. Now in failing health, he was conscious of his own mortality and wished passionately to live long enough to complete the opera Les contes d'Hoffmann ("The Tales of Hoffmann"). He was heard saying to Kleinzach, his dog, "I would give everything I have to be at the première." However, Offenbach did not live to finish the piece. He left the vocal score substantially complete and had made a start on the orchestration. Ernest Guiraud, a family friend, assisted by Offenbach's 18-year-old son Auguste, completed the orchestration, making significant changes as well as the substantial cuts demanded by the Opéra-Comique's director, Carvalho. The opera was first seen at the Opéra-Comique on February 10, 1881; Guiraud added recitatives for the Vienna premiere, in December 1881, and other versions were made later.

Offenbach died in Paris in 1880 at the age of 61. His cause of death was certified as heart failure brought on by acute gout. He was given a state funeral; The Times wrote, "The crowd of distinguished men that accompanied him on his last journey amid the general sympathy of the public shows that the late composer was reckoned among the masters of his art." He is buried in the Montmartre Cemetery.

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Note: This page includes sections of revised and reformatted content from Wikipedia.org.