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Jacques Offenbach

Donald Macleod on Jacques Offenbach - maestro of the Cancan and much more besides.

Donald Macleod on Jacques Offenbach - maestro of the Cancan and much more besides.

Today’s episode we meet Offenbach on the brink of defeat – when he decides to launch his own theatre company, ‘Les Bouffes-Parisiens’ in a tiny wooden shack on the Champs-Elysées. It was an instant and enduring success; over the next quarter-century, more than 50 of Offenbach’s musical comedies were to début there. We get an insight into the character of this driven creative artist – the man who “cannot stop working”. He even had his carriage kitted out with a writing desk, so that he could continue composing, scoring or revising as he travelled between venues. Next, we hear about his A-team librettists, Meilhac and Halévy, and a mysterious stranger makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Offenbach is whisked to the United States on a concert tour, where he is particularly fascinated by the women. Finally, Donald looks at Offenbach’s gout-ridden final years, and the opera he left unfinished on his death (The Tales of Hoffmann).

Music featured:
Orphée aux enfers (extracts)
Les deux aveugles (Overture)
Monsieur Choufleuri restera chez lui (extracts)
Valse de Zimmer (Dernier Souvenir)
Boléro (from Grande scène espagnole, Op 22)
Lischen et Fritzchen (Act 1, ‘Je suis Alsacienne’)
Le papillon (extract)
Boule de neige (‘L'Hospodar nous invite a luncher avec lui, lunchons!’)
Barbe-bleue (Act 1, Couplets de Boulotte: “Y’a des bergers dans le village”)
La belle Hélène (extract)
La vie Parisienne (Act 3, finale)
La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (Act I, finale)
La Perichole (extract)
La boulangerie à des écus (‘Ce qu’ j’ai?’)
Vert-Vert (overture)
American Eagle Waltz
La vie Parisienne (Act 2, beginning)
Les belles Américaines
La Belle Hélène (Act 2, ‘On me nomme Hélène le blond’)
La jolie parfumeuse (Act 1, ‘Je peins, je crayonne’)
Les contes d’Hoffmann (extract)

Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Chris Barstow for BBC Wales

For full tracklistings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Jacques Offenbach

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here:

Release date:

Available now

1 hour, 7 minutes