program notes by composition > L > La Belle Hélène Overture

La Belle H é l è ne Overture

Jacques Offenbach/arr. Lawrence Odom

La Belle Hélène ( The Fair Helen ) is the overture to a satirical operetta written as a spoof on the Greek myth of Helen of Troy. The operetta can also be con strued as a satire on the age of Napoléon III. The first performance, in Paris in 1864, was an instant success. Premieres followed soon after in Vienna, Berlin, London and Chicago (1867).

Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880), born in Cologne, Germany, was a composer and cellist of the Romantic era and one of the originators of the operetta form. He was much attached to France, his adopted country, and many of his works are very patriotic in nature. His numerous operettas that combined political and cultural satire with witty grand opera parodies were extremely popular in the 1850s and 1860. He was forced to flee France after that country fell to Germany, but his popularity later rebounded. The great chef Auguste Escoffier is said to have created the fruit dessert "Pear Hélène” in honor of Offenbach and his work.

Last updated on July 18, 2013 by Palatine Concert Band