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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July 2004, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
'Lost opera' found in clear-out
Scene from Benigni's Life is Beautiful
Offenbach's music was used in the Oscar-winning film Life is Beautiful
A handwritten copy of the original score for Jacques Offenbach's last opera has been discovered a century after it was thought lost in a fire.

The manuscript for the Tales of Hoffman - which premiered in 1881, a year after Offenbach's death - was found when the Paris opera library was re-organised.

Music historians had believed the score was destroyed in a fire at the French capital's Opera-Comique in 1887.

The opera has been reworked several times from fragments of the original.

Satirical treatment

A section of The Tales of Hoffman, which focuses on the tragic quest for love of the German writer ETA Hoffman, was suppressed by opera management shortly after it was first performed.

The version now discovered appears to be the French composer's uncut original, a spokesman for the Paris opera said.

The manuscript was uncovered in a box after a case of fraud forced the company to sort through its archives, he said.

Music by Offenbach attracted interest from new audiences after it was used in Benigni's Oscar-winning film Life is Beautiful.

The prolific but little-known composer tended to produce satirical treatments of familiar stories with a sharp glance at contemporary society and politics.

He won most acclaim for his operettas, among them Orphée aux enfers, La belle Hélène and La vie parisienne.

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