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Offenbach Insult

On December 8, 1881, 384 people perished at the Ring Theatre in Vienna after a fire erupted during a performance of Jacques Offenbach's Tales of Hoffmann. "When coal miners are buried alive, I am profoundly moved and horrified," Richard Wagner remarked, "disgusted with a world which obtains its heating fuel by such means. But it leaves me cold and barely moved when members of an audience perish while listening to an Offenbach operetta, which contains not one iota of moral worth."

["Offenbach possesses the warmth that Daniel Auber lacks," Wagner declared on another occasion, "but it is the warmth of the dungheap. All Europe is wallowing in it." George Bernard Shaw agreed, albeit more diplomatically: "Offenbach's music is wicked," said Shaw. "It is abandoned stuff; every accent is a snap of the fingers in the face of moral responsibility."]

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