Happy 200th birthday, M. Offenbach!

The brilliant Jacques (né Jakob) Offenbach, one of the Jewish German masters of French opera, was born in Cologne 200 years ago today. The Aristophanic, Bacchic Offenbach, best of all the Bachs. For wit, tunefulness, and music that makes you smile (or even laugh), his works are hard to beat.

Jupiter tries to seduce a mortal disguised as a fly, while Public Opinion pursues a merry widower. The soprano sings a delirious waltz while cannibals cook her alive. Impostors sing ensembles in Chinese or Italian gibberish, while the chorus get roaring drunk. And there’s pathos, too, in La belle Hélène or La Périchole.

Let’s celebrate with a party of some of the most delightful, toe-tapping music ever written for the stage.

 Ah ! ah ! ah ! ça commence !
Tout tourne, tout danse,
Et voilà déjà,
Que ma tête s’en va !

Ba-ta-clan (1855)

Orphée aux enfers (1858)

M. Choufleuri restera chez lui le… (1861)

Le trio italien:

La belle Hélène (1864)

La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (1867):

Robinson Crusoé (1867)

La Périchole (1868)

Les brigands (1869)

La fille du tambour-major (1879)

Les contes d’Hoffmann (1881)

And what better way to celebrate than by watching an Offenbach opera?
(particularly with a bottle of champagne)

Les Brigands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuHqIjoLSEg&t=2s
Like an Astérix BD come to life!

La grande-duchesse de Gérolstein: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9xhwvQ5ux8
Delightful production, opening with a Gilliamesque cartoon

Offenbach’s Secret – this has two early Offenbach operas, Les deux aveugles and Croqueferhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bejl0VJgCHE
Absolutely delirant. I hugged myself with mirth watching this. It is a Hungarian production, dubbed into English. Les deux aveugles is a two-man opera with very funny suicides and infanticides in the background. It has also a wonderfully atrocious pun, involving Descartes. Croquefer, set in the Middle Ages, is like opera crossed with the BBC children’s programme Horrible Histories. It’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant. There’s a wonderful duet that made me split my sides, with quotations from Meyerbeer, Halévy, Donizetti, even Adam. And a diarrhoea quintet. And at the end of the opera, the musicians, composer, and librettist are hauled off to the Charenton asylum. (I understand that mentality far more than the EMOTIONS! LOVE! FEELINGS! most operas inflict. I had an emotion once; it died from neglect.) What a wonderful way to celebrate Offenbach’s 200th birthday (particularly with two-thirds THE BETTER PART of a bottle of champagne).

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