1. His only son Auguste did not long survive the father and died in 1883 at the age of twenty-one.
2. Born in Marseilles in 1838 (some say 1835), Hortense Schneider appeared in a music hall in her native city at the age of sixteen. She soon left to play in other provincial towns. Offenbach, on one of his tours, met her in Brussels. She became his favorite diva, the creator of his most important roles beginning with Tromb-al-cazar in 1856 and ending with La Fille du Tambour Major (The Drum Major’s Daughter) in 187g.
When La Belle Hélène brought her to the pinnacle of success in 1864, her dressing room at the Variétés was crowded with aristocracy and royalty. Her admirers included the Prince of Wales, the Tsar of Russia, and assorted members of the nobility and gentry. Zola in the first chapter of Nana gives a vivid account of a performance of this operetta with Hortense in the title role.
The heyday of her fame was the 186o’s. After the Franco-Prussian War the theatrical climate changed, and Hortense Schneider finally left the stage in 1881. She lived for many years thereafter and died in her house in Paris in 1920.
3. The title has been translated variously, but one can discard immediately the inspired version of an Englishman, “Orpheus in the Underground/’ and a later American one of “To Hell with Orpheus.”
4. Jacques Brindejont-Offenbach in his book Offenbach, mon grand-père says that the score of Le Belle Hélène went for “une somme dérisoire” La Vie Parisienne brought 10,000 francs, La Grande-Duchesse, 9,000, and Les Brigands, 12,000. Impresario Choudens, however, paid 50,000 francs for Les Contes d’Hoffman.
5. When the Palace of Saint-Germain was destroyed during the French Revolution, one of the vast pavilions was left standing. Converted into a deluxe hotel, it became a popular resort for fashionable Parisians. Offenbach loved the hotel and wrote several of his greatest successes there. The garden contains a bust of him.
6. Born Céléstine Aimée Tronchon in Lyons in 1834, she neglected her studies at the pensionnat to which her well-to-do parents sent her in favor of acting. Like Hortense Schneider, she was determined to go on the stage and bullied her parents into letting her make her debut at the Eldorado Café in Paris in 1854. Aimée became one of Offenbach’s favorite singers, and he wrote several of his female roles with her in mind. But the competition in Paris was too keen, and she never was the outstanding star in that city that she longed to be.
For the 1870-71 season in his Grand Opera House James Fisk imported Parisian opéra bouffe singers and Aimée was among them. Most of the singers returned to Europe at the end of the season, but Marie Aimée, as she now called herself, remained in the United States. Maurice Grau presented her in opéra bouffe the following year. She had found her public. For the next seventeen years she starred first as a singer and then, as she grew older, in straight comedy which she played in English.
Aimée spent much of what she earned in the New World attempting to gain the recognition she craved in the Old. Repeatedly, she crossed the ocean and sang in Paris and other European cities. Never did she have a substantial success; her really appreciative public was in America. -
Aimée’s end was tragic. Taken ill in San Francisco while oil tour, learning that she had an incurable cancer, she returned early in 1887’.to her house in Paris. Here she died October 4 of that year at the age of fifty-three. She cut her only child, a daughter, out of her will; she left some real estate to a nephew; but the bulk of her fortune, about $40,000, went to her “walking gentleman.” It is said that this character appeared at her funeral wearing all her diamonds and rings!
7. Léon Gambetta (1838-1882), French statesman and ardent supporter of the Republic.
8. The theme of Le plus heureux des trois, a comedy by Eugène Labiche, is that the happiest member of the Eternal Triangle is the husband whose wife is taken off his hands by a lover.
9. This list is fantastic for two reasons: first, Offenbach was obviously unacquainted with the names; and second, the verdict of time. In 1957 one can identify Albert Bierstadt, born in Germany in 1830 and brought to the United States as a very young child. Having studied art abroad, he returned to this country in 1853 and joined a surveying group for an overland route. This experience started him on his career of painting large canvases of Far West scenes, some of which are in the Metropolitan Museum of New York. Thomas Ball, born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1819, began as a painter but soon turned to sculpturing. In 1854 he set up a studio in Florence, Italy, but returned to Boston to do the equestrian statue of Washington in the Public Garden. The plaster model was completed in 1864 but the Civil War delayed its casting until 1869. His work may also be seen in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D. C. At the age of sixteen, Vinnie Ream was commissioned by a gallant Congress to carve the statue of Lincoln now in the Rotunda of the National Capitol in Washington. “Stunt” may be Gilbert Stuart; “Mismie” may be a distortion of Smillie, the name of two brothers of the Hudson River School; and “Carlisli” is a clear corruption of Carlisle, but no such artist is identifiable. One wonders who supplied the innocent Frenchman with such a list of artists.
10. “Jurant, mais un peu tard qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus ,” the last line of La Fontaine’s fable “Le Corbeau et le renard.”
11. The Seine had recently been canalized so that small seagoing ships could go as far as Paris. “Paris, port de mer” was a great joke in 1876.
12. Offenbach’s spelling and translation.
13. A famous line from Victor Hugo’s Hernani, Act III, line 1164. A nobleman, boasting of his ancestors and their deeds, points out the portraits of several and says, freely translated, “I skip over many more, even more meritorious than the ones I have mentioned.”
14. A very popular dentifrice. It is still sold in England.
15. Jerome Park, now part of Harlem, was just north of Central Park.
16. The son of a French father and a West Indian Negress, Alexandre Dumas père was a mulatto; he had a number of children by various mistresses. His best known son was Alexandre Dumas fils, author of La Dame aux Camélias and many other dramas.
17. The spelling of the French edition.