Jacques Offenbach

Other names: Jacob


Knight of the Legion of Honour, 1861

Positions Held

Director of the Théâtre de la Gaîté, 1873
Director of the Théâtre Comte Bouffes-Parisiens, 1856-62, res.
Conductor at the Théâtre Français, 1850-56, res.


German-Jewish composer of opéra bouffe.
His father, Isaac Juda Eberst, left Offenbach am Main for Cologne, c. 1800, where he became known as Offenbach. He was a bookbinder, music and composition teacher, and later, cantor at a synagogue in Cologne.
Studied violin, and then cello, and later studied under Joseph Alexander, and then with Bernhard Breuer.
Went to Paris in 1833, and studied under Vaslin at the Conservatoire for a year, and later joined the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique until 1838.
From then on, he developed a career as a cello virtuoso, with performances in Paris, Cologne, and London.
Converted to Catholicism, 1844, and married Herminie d’Alcain.
A naturalised Frenchman, 1860.
He composed a vast number of light, lively operettas, Le Mariage aux lanternes, etc., but is best known as the inventor of modern opéra bouffe, represented by Orphée aux enfers (1858), La Belle Hélène, La Barbe bleu, La Grande Duchesse, Geneviève de Brabant, Roi Carotte, and Madame Favart. His renowned Contes d’Hoffmann was not produced till after his death.

Place of birth: Cologne
Place of death: Paris


Gunn, J. Nelson's Biographical Dictionary. London, etc.: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1936.
Sadie, S. and G. Grove (eds.). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edn, vol. 18, Nisard to Palestrina. London: Macmillan, 2001.

Families | Lands | Abbreviations and Symbols | Sources

© 2021 The Universal Compendium