Music: Operetta's Father

The George Gershwin of France's Second Empire was mutton-chop-whiskered Jacques Offenbach. Stuffy politicians, high-toned artists, bombastic literati winced at his satirical songs. All Paris, from the Empress Eugénie to the trollops of the Quartier Latin gobbled up his tunes as fast as they came. He wrote nearly 100 operettas, which drew delighted applause in every pleasure-loving city from St. Petersburg to New Orleans.

But pince-nezed, gouty Offenbach was not satisfied with being the most popular light-weight composer in the world. All his life he nursed an ambition to write a serious opera....

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