This note accompanies the follow episode(s):
The Writer’s Almanac for June 20, 2017: Patty’s Charcoal Drive-In

June 20, 2017: birthday: Jacques Offenbach

It’s the birthday of Jacques Offenbach, born in Cologne, Germany (1819). He composed many comic operas, and most critics consider his masterpiece to be Orpheus in the Underworld (1858). The opera makes fun of Greek mythology, and at one point the gods and goddesses perform a cancan. Audiences were outraged at first, but the outrage led to the opera’s popular success. We also know one of Offenbach’s tunes because it was taken for the American Marine Corps Hymn, “From the Halls of Montezuma.”

Offenbach struggled with financial difficulties in his later life. He eventually became a recluse, working on a serious opera that he believed would be his masterpiece. He didn’t live to see it performed, but when it premiered, The Tales of Hoffmann (1881) became an immediate success.