While still working on Les contes d'Hoffmann, Offenbach's precarious financial situation necessitated the completion of more lucrative operetta projects. The enormous success of La Fille du Tambour-Major at the Theatre des Folies-Dramatiques led to a commission from the Theatre de la Renaissance for another work, Belle Lurette.
By August 2 1880, Offenbach could write to his daughter that he had a month to do the 3rd act of Belle Lurette and orchestrate the operetta, along with his work on Les contes d'Hoffmann. The work was practically finished when Offenbach died on 5 October, leaving Leo Delibes with very little to do to complete the operetta prior to its first performance on the 30th. The most popular extract today is the aria, 'On s'amuse, on applaudit'.
Delibes was born in France in 1836, and studied at the Paris Conservatory of Music. Although he acheived no real distinction while there, he began to develop his style, and after graduating became famous as a master of ballet with his second work, Coppelia (1870).
It was not long until Delibes began composing opera and operetta. Le Roi l'a dit (1873) was his first opera, performed at the Opera-Comique. Jean di Nivelle (1880) and Lakme (1883) brought Delibes to the forefront of French stage composers. Lakme was tremendously popular at the time, for the Far Eastern romance and mystery in its tale of love between a British officer and the daughter of an Indian priest. Two of its songs, the Flower Duet and the Bell Song, are particularly well known today. After his opera period, Delibes wrote a lot of religious music, including Les Filles de Cadiz.
Delibes was appointed professor of composition at the Paris Conservatory in 1881, and in 1884 was made a member of the Institut de France. His final opera Kassya was finished by Massenet after Delibes' death in 1891. His music is still frequently heard, attractive for its vivid melody and rich orchestration which highlights the voice beautifully.
- MIDI FILE - from "Lakme": Flower Duet (1'08'')
Jacques Offenbach (20 June 1819, in Cologne – 5 October 1880, in Paris) was a German-born French composer and cellist of the Romantic era and one of the originators of the operetta form. Of German-Jewish descent, he was one of the most influential composers of popular music in Europe in the 19th century, and many of his works remain in the repertory.
Offenbach's numerous operettas, such as Orpheus in the Underworld, and La belle Hélène, were extremely popular in both France and the English-speaking world in the 1850s and 1860s. They combined political and cultural satire with witty grand opera parodies. His popularity in France waned in the 1870s after the fall of the Second Empire, and he fled France, but during the last years of his life, his popularity rebounded, and several of his operettas are still performed. While his name remains most closely associated with the French operetta and the Second Empire, it is Offenbach's one fully operatic masterpiece, Les contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann), composed at the end of his career, that has become the most familiar of Offenbach's works in major opera houses.
Offenbach's father, born Isaac Eberst in Offenbach am Main around 1780, changed his name to Offenbach when he settled down in Deutz in 1802. He was a man of many talents who worked as a bookbinder, translator, publisher, music teacher and composer and became a cantor some 30 years later. In 1816 the family moved to Cologne, where his son Jacob (later changed to Jacques) was born in 1819.
In 1833 his father took Jacob to Paris and managed to get him admitted as a cello student to the Paris Conservatoire. Financial difficulties forced Jacques, as he was known by then, to break off his studies at the end of 1834. After a few odd jobs he eventually found a position as a cellist in the orchestra of the Opéra Comique. He soon made a name for himself as a cello virtuoso, appearing with famous pianists like the young Anton Rubinstein, Liszt, Mendelssohn, and, very often, with Flotow with whom he performed jointly composed pieces. In 1844, he converted to Catholicism and married Herminie d'Alcain. He moved to Germany with his wife and daughter in 1848 (the couple eventually had four daughters) to escape revolutionary violence in France, but returned after a brief stay.
In 1850, he became conductor of the Théâtre Français, but the musical theatre establishment in Paris did not immediately accept his sometimes pointed songs and music. Therefore, in 1855, he rented for the Expo season a little theatre on the Champs-Élysées and named it the Bouffes Parisiens. In the following winter he moved the Bouffes to a larger and, above all, heatable theatre on rue Monsigny/Passage Choiseul. There he began a successful career devoted largely to composing operettas. In the early years, Offenbach's permit limited his productions to one-act works with only a few speaking or singing characters. Les deux aveugles, Ba-ta-clan (both premiering in 1855), and La bonne d'enfant were three of his popular works from this period. Only in 1858, after these restrictions had been lifted, it became possible for him to produce his first full-length work, Orpheus in the Underworld.
Offenbach wrote almost 100 operettas, some of which were wildly popular in his time, and his most popular works are still performed regularly today. The best of these works combined hilarious political and cultural satire with witty grand opera parodies. His best-known operettas in the English-speaking world are Orpheus in the Underworld (1858), La belle Hélène (1864), La vie parisienne (1866), The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein (1867), and La Périchole (1868). Les Brigands (1869) was very popular in the English-speaking world initially but was later forgotten.
Offenbach worked with the librettists Meilhac and Halévy more often than any other librettist or team and produced some of his most successful works with them. He said of his relationship with the team: Je suis sans doute le Père, chacun des deux autres est à la fois mon Fils et Plein d'Esprit (literally "No doubt I am the Father; each of the two others is at once my Son and Full of Verve"— esprit meaning both Spirit and wit and Plein d'Esprit rhyming with Saint Esprit).