June 20, 2019
Let’s have a look at composer Jacques Offenbach and his most famous work, “Orpheus in the Underworld”. This is a comic operetta (“operetta” is like “opera lite” – in both subject matter and the music itself) that premiered in 1858 and is considered the first full-length operetta, since France didn’t allow full-length works of certain genres, for some bizarre reason. “Orpheus” is a scathing parody of Gluck’s “Orfeo ed Euridice” and was considered shocking at the time. The operetta played in New York on Broadway, and in a few countries in Europe. Its popularity spread, and “Orpheus” continues to be presented by opera houses to this day, including a controversial run in late 1993 by The Toronto Operetta Theatre depicting heaven as Club Med, and hell as a leather bar. Ooh la la!
What many refer to as the “can-can” music is the “Galop Infernal” from Act 2, Scene 2. The most recent commercial use of this music is a television campaign for a national coffee chain replete with lyrics explaining how the beans were selected, shipped to Canada, and subject to strict taste tests. There’s choreography too, but no can-can.
Kick up your heels for the Can Can dance in the style of the old Moulin Rouge!
Jacques Offenbach was born June 20, 1819 in Cologne, Germany, and died October 5, 1880, in Paris, France.