In 1855, the renowned cellist, Jacques Offenbach
opened a little theater in the Champs-Elysees. The theater was struggling
financially, and nearly closed, when Offenbach, in an effort to raise some
much-needed money, staged a riotous musical satire based on the exploits of the
characters of an ancient legend. At first, ticket sales for Orpheus in the
Underworld were slow until the review of critic Jules Janin called the
production "a profanation of holy and glorious antiquity in a spirit of
irreverence that bordered on blasphemy," That was all Parisians needed to hear.
The production was sold-out for the next 227 consecutive performances and only
closed because the cast was exhausted. Offenbach's operetta, with its gods
dancing a cancan and thinly veiled caricatures of contemporary political and
cultural figures, made Offenbach a very wealthy man.