Jacques Offenbach and the Paris of his time /

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Main Author: Kracauer, Siegfried, 1889-1966.
Other Authors: David, Gwenda.
Mosbacher, Eric, 1903-1998.
Format: Book
Published:New York : Zone Books ; Cambridge, Mass. : Distributed by MIT Press, 2002.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Part Frankfurt School social critique, part homage to the City of Light, this biography of the composer, originally published in German in 1937, is really the "biography...of a society." The late Kracauer, a novelist and cultural critic, has little to say about the music itself; his aim is rather to show the "dependence of every genre of art on specific social conditions." Offenbach's frothy, satirical operettas flourished in mid-19th century France, he argues, because they were both a "mirror" held up to the glittering but hollow imperial regime and a safe outlet for mockery of it; they "would never have been born had the society...not itself been operetta-like." Kracauer is convincing when he ties operetta to the "fashionable Bohemianism" of the day, less so when he invokes "the domination of finance capital" and "the eruption of the international economy" to explain musical theater fads. The appeal of the book lies in Kracauer's dazzling portrait of the gas-lit Parisian beau monde of dandies, courtesans, dissolute journalists, snobbish aristocrats, insecure bourgeois, elegant salons and riotous street carnivals, all rendered with a flowing style and witty, novelistic detail. Offenbach's operettas may not have been, as Kracauer believes, "the most definite form of revolutionary protest" in their day, but they are evocative symbols of a glamorous, music-mad world that the author vaguely disapproved of but can't help loving anyway. Photos. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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