Carl Millöcker was one of the most popular and prolific operetta composers of his time, though today his reputation rests largely on Der Bettelstudent and Grafin Dubarry, and he remains overshadowed by Lehár and Johann Strauss II.
He studied flute and music theory at the Vienna Conservatory and after his graduation, composed and conducted at the Thalia Theater in Graz, where his first operetta, the one-act Der tote Gast, was produced in 1865. He first became a conductor at the Theater an der Wein in 1866, but soon left for opportunities at other theaters. In 1869, however, he returned as second conductor and he remained associated with that house until his death. While he edited the journal Musikalische Presse and wrote incidental music for theater productions, he also began to write full-length operettas, culminating with Der Bettelstudent in 1882. Following its success, he gave up conducting to focus his energies upon composing. Gasparone premiered in 1884. His major overseas success was the 1890 Der Arme Jonathan, which opened in London with additional music by Isaac Albéniz. In 1894, he experienced a stroke, soon followed by others, and was left partially paralyzed. His last operetta, Nordlicht, premiered in 1896.