In the early 1860s, French operettas by Jacques Offenbach were first presented in Vienna. Franz von Suppé was obliged to compete with them by taking the time-honored traditions of Vienna and combining it with the new style of Offenbach. Die schöne Galathee was Franz von Suppé's first critical success.
The sculptor Pygmalion has fallen madly in love with his statue of Galatea. Therefore he does not want to sell the statue to a patron of the arts, Midas, and asks Venus, the goddess of the love, to breathe life into the statue. Venus grants him the request and Galatea comes to life. However, Galatea turns out to be a very independent-minded creature. She is unfaithful to Pygmalion with his servant Ganymede (because he is much more pleasing to her than Pygmalion) and does not reject Midas, who offers her jewelry. When Pygmalion catches Galatea in a compromising situation, he implores Venus to turn her back into stone. The jewerly offered by Midas is also turned to stone, but the whole statue is sold to him.