June 20, 1819 - Cologne (Germany) — October 5, 1880 - Paris (France)
Born in Germany to a musician father, Jakob Offenbach (later “Jacques”) began his musical studies on the cello, initially practicing in secret because of his parents misgivings about his being too small for the instrument. His talent eventually convinced them otherwise: when he was 14, they sent him to audition for the Paris Conservatoire, which accepted him despite a rule against foreigners entering. Even so, after only a year he abruptly cut short his studies to pursue his career as a performer, joining the orchestra of the Opéra-Comique and encountering the opera composer Halévy who agreed to give him composition lessons. After a brief hiatus in Cologne during the revolutionary movement of 1848, in 1850 he returned to Paris and was offered the direction of the Comédie-Française.
By 1855, he was on the move again, opening his own theater, the Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, on the Champs-Elysées. There he created a new, heavily satirical musical-theatrical genre, and with the lifting of strict government censuring practices in the late 1850s, he was soon expressing himself freely with a long string of wildly popular hits. It was his 1858 Orphée aux Enfers that set the tone for the comedic operas and operettas that would follow (notably, La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein, La Vie parisienne, Les Brigands, the “opéra-bouffe-féerie” Le Roi Carotte, and the patriotic opera La Fille du Tambour-Major). His career came to a close with his death just months before the premiere of his eternal operatic masterpiece Les Contes d’Hoffmann (“The Tales of Hoffmann”), which continues to captivate audiences and critics alike around the world to this day.