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Celebrating that “Parisienne Gaiety”

When I was a teenager, I began learning about classical music by listening to radio programs in the evening. Often the shows would begin with an overture or “light classic”, such as the Light Cavalry Overture (which our school band played), or the William Tell Overture (the “Lone Ranger” to me). There was also a very lively piece that one announcer called “Gate Parisienne.” I assumed that this “Gate” was a must-see for tourists, like the Eiffel Tower.

All of this came back to me when I read that October 5 is the day when Jacques Offenbach died. Born in Cologne on June 20, 1819, Offenbach studied cello and composition at the Paris Conservatoire. Then, after working as a cellist, he became conductor at the Théâtre-Français.

By the 1860s he was celebrated as the composer of operettas, such as Orphée aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld) and La Belle Hélène. Intended as a spoof of grand opera, Offenbach’s operettas influenced other creators, such as Johann Strauss, and Gilbert and Sullivan. This success made it possible for him to open his own theater, Théâtre des Bouffes-Parisiens, which he directed for ten years.

Late in life, Offenbach began writing a grand opera, Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) and, although not quite finished when he died, it was performed in 1881 at the Opéra-comique.

“Helen of Troy in Opera”, DBM00145, is one of several recordings that can provide more information about Offenbach. Michael Barclay has talks on The Tales of Hoffmann, DBM00859; Merry Widow and Operetta, DBM00765; and La Grande-duchesse de Gérolstein, DBM01366. There is also “Orpheus in Opera” at DBM00127, which discusses “settings of the Orpheus myth … over the past 350 years.” And Ann Thomson explores Orpheus in the Underworld, DBM01260; and Tales of Hoffmann, DBM01427.

A braille libretto for Tales of Hoffman is at BRM35004. Celebrated Soprano Arias, compiled by Kurt Adler, BRM22085, includes Offenbach’s aria “Elle a fui”. The baritone recitative and aria from this opera, “Scintille, Diamant” may be found at BRM26467.

If you want to learn the “Can-Can” from Orpheus in the Underworld, there is a version for recorder at BRM06428, and one for organ in BRM20668.

And we have his famous Barcarolle arranged for piano, BRM29621 and LPM00397; for cello and piano, BRM00892; clarinet and piano, BRM28846; and for soprano and mezzo-soprano with piano, BRM26864.

To borrow any of these, or to learn about other Offenbach works that we have, please contact the Music Section!

American Composers and Musicians from A to Z: A (Part 1)

The following is a guest blog post from the new section head of the NLS Music Section, Juliette Appold. Have you ever thought about listing classical and contemporary composers by their last names from A to Z? How about identifying American composers from A to Z? And how about filling the alphabet with names of […]

Vacation Listening, and Much More

On May 13, I was baking cookies and listening to the Met Broadcast of Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. One of the announcers explained that this production would take place not in the 18th century, but in 1911, the year it was composed (also the year that Mahler died, I thought to myself). And that’s when it […]

Music History: 101

Recently, we mentioned the Music Section’s acquisition of the sixth edition, Norton Anthology of Western Music, Vol. 3, Twentieth Century. This time of year also marks the beginning of the college spring semester, and we have seen a rise in the average amount of our music history related inquiries. Music history has been on the “brain” of […]

Some Splendid Saint-Saëns Selections

Today we celebrate the 179th birthday of Camille Saint-Saëns, a famous French composer, most well-known for his works The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah, and a number of other pieces. Saint-Saëns began his musical studies at the incredible age of three, while he was living with his mother and aunt in […]

Opera Fans Know What’s Happening, but the Devil is in the Details or…Libretti for Everybody!

Some of the Music Section’s most ardent patrons are operagoers.  This comes as no surprise to other opera aficionados, but blind/low vision operagoers are usually not able to pick up a program in braille or large print and read a synopsis when they arrive at the theater; that is, until they (or the opera companies) […]