Jacques Offenbach (1819 - 1880)
Overture "Orpheus in the Underworld"
Jacques Offenbach was Jewish, and took up the name Offenbach after his birthplace, where his father was cantor at the synagogue. After playing cello in the orchestra at the Opera-Comique, he became conductor at the Theatre Francais, later opening a theatre of his own - the Bouffes Parisiens. This he ran from 1855 to 1866, and is where most of his operettas were first performed.
Orpheus in the Underworld was the first of his operettas and remains the best known. His music is always fluent and pleasant, as if to distract attention from the sometimes sharp satire of the subject matter. He is mocking the attitudes and morals of 19th century French society, by appearing to satirise the classical story of Orpheus and Eurydice.