French composer Jacques Offenbach (1819–1880) was arguably the most important writer of popular music in the 19th century. His many operettas are outstanding examples of the genre, while his opera Les Contes d’Hoffmann remains a staple of the international repertory. Offenbach was born in Cologne. He was first taught the violin but from the age of nine focussed on the cello. After a year’s study at the Paris Conservatoire he went on to play in orchestras, primarily at the Opéra-Comique. His fame as a cellist grew through the 1840s, during which time he also organized performances of his own compositions. The success of Offenbach’s operettas established the genre internationally, leading the way for composers such as Sullivan and Lehár and in part feeding into the development of the 20th-century musical.