Born in Cologne, the son of a synagogue cantor, Offenbach showed early musical talent.At the age of 14, he was accepted as a student at the Paris Conservatoire but found academic study unfulfilling and left after a year.
In 1858, Offenbach produced his first full-length operetta, Orphée aux enfers ("Orpheus in the Underworld"), which was exceptionally well received and has remained one of his most played works.
During the 1860s, he produced at least 18 full-length operettas, as well as more one-act pieces.
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.
He went back to working as a cellist, and occasional conductor, at the Opéra-Comique, but was not encouraged in his aspirations to compose.
Offenbach composed songs and incidental music for eleven classical and modern dramas for the Comédie Française in the early 1850s.
Before leaving, he found a number of pupils for Jules; the modest earnings from those lessons, supplemented by fees earned by both brothers as members of synagogue choirs, supported them during their studies.
At the conservatoire, Jules was a diligent student; he graduated and became a successful violin teacher and conductor, and led his younger brother's orchestra for several years.
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.
In 1833, Isaac decided that the two most musically talented of his children, Julius (then aged 18) and Jacob (14) needed to leave the provincial musical scene of Cologne to study in Paris.