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After some encouragement and some temporary setbacks, he seemed on the verge of breaking into theatrical composition when Paris was convulsed by the 1848 revolution, which swept Louis Philippe from the throne and led to serious bloodshed in the streets of the capital.

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He made a favourable impression on the composer and conductor Fromental Halévy, who gave him lessons in composition and orchestration and wrote to Isaac Offenbach in Cologne that the young man was going to be a great composer.Although Offenbach's ambition was to compose for the stage, he could not gain an entrée to Parisian theatre at this point in his career; with Flotow's help, he built a reputation composing for and playing in the fashionable salons of Paris.From 1835 to 1855 he earned his living as a cellist, achieving international fame, and as a conductor.His ambition, however, was to compose comic pieces for the musical theatre.The British press reported a triumphant royal command performance; The Illustrated London News wrote, "Herr Jacques Offenbach, the astonishing Violoncellist, performed on Thursday evening at Windsor before the Emperor of Russia, the King of Saxony, Queen Victoria, and Prince Albert with great success." Offenbach returned to Paris with his reputation and his bank balance both much enhanced.

The last remaining obstacle to his marriage to Hérminie was the difference in their professed religions; he converted to Roman Catholicism, with the comtesse de Vaux acting as his sponsor.

His works from this period included La belle Hélène (1864), La Vie parisienne (1866), La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (1867) and La Périchole (1868).

The risqué humour (often about sexual intrigue) and mostly gentle satiric barbs in these pieces, together with Offenbach's facility for melody, made them internationally known, and translated versions were successful in Vienna, London and elsewhere in Europe.

He was a powerful influence on later composers of the operetta genre, particularly Johann Strauss, Jr. His best-known works were continually revived during the 20th century, and many of his operettas continue to be staged in the 21st.

The Tales of Hoffman remains part of the standard opera repertory.

With the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Offenbach found himself out of favour in Paris because of his imperial connections and his German birth.