The son of a merchant was first active from 1891 in Gelsenkirchen and Mülheim an der Ruhr, and later in Freiberg, Kiel, Stettin and Chemnitz as Kapellmeister. In 1896 he married Clara Louise Grunewald. From 1899 to 1905 Jessel acted as conductor at the Wilhelm- Theater in Lübeck and was then director of the choral society of the Trade Union Lübeck. In 1909, his daughter Eva Maria was born in 1911 the family moved to Berlin. 1919, the first marriage ended in divorce in 1921 he married his second wife Anna.
In his time in Berlin from 1911, Jessel turned increasingly to composition of operettas and musical comedies, which were premiered especially in Berlin, and later in Munich, Hamburg and Königsberg. He celebrated his biggest success with the operetta The Black Forest Girl ( libretto by August Neidhart ), which was at the Komische Oper Berlin premiere (at the Weidendammer Bridge ) 1917. The great success of the Black Forest girls can be gauged by the fact that it was performed within the next 10 years, about 6000 times, including in 1922 at the Teatro Coliseo in Buenos Aires. He could celebrate 1921 with the operetta The postmistress a second major success.
The most famous piece is probably the Jessels parade of toy soldiers. 1905 composed piece served in 1933 as the title song in Paramount 's animated film The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers. Jessel was one of the founders of Gema predecessor.
The Nazis because of his German national views at first seem rather sympathetic to standing, Jessel asked after the seizure to be admitted to the League of Struggle for German Culture Alfred Rosenberg. He was rejected and a little later fined for his Jewish heritage with performance ban, although he was in 1894 resigned from the Jewish community and a convert to the Christian faith. On December 15, 1941 Jessel was summoned and arrested at the Gestapo headquarters in Berlin -Mitte. The reason was a 1939 -written, found during a house search letter to his librettist William Sterk to Vienna, where Jessel had written: " I can not work in a time where Jew-baiting threatens to destroy my people where I do not know when the gruesome fate will also knock on my door. " by the Gestapo Jessel was so badly abused in a basement of the police Bureau at Alexanderplatz, that he died very ill and on January 4, 1942 at the Jewish Hospital in Berlin.
Leon Jessel was initially buried in the West Stahnsdorf and 1955 reburied at the cemetery Wilmersdorf in Berlin.
The district office Wilmersdorf of Berlin named a plaza with sculpture in the city after him.
He composed 29 operettas 1913-1936. The Black Forest Girl and parade of toy soldiers are among his most successful operettas.
- The two hussars ( operetta, text: Wilhelm Jacoby and Rudolf Schanzer, Premiere: February 6, 1913 in the theater of the West, Berlin)
- He who laughs last ( musical comedy, text: Arthur Lippschitz and A. Bernstein Sawersky, Premiere: December 31, 1913 at the Komische Oper Berlin at the Weidendammer bridge )
- The Black Forest Girl ( operetta, text: August Neidhart, World Premiere: August 25, 1917 in the Komische Oper Berlin )
- A modern girl ( operetta, text may Fritz Grünbaum and Wilhelm Sterk, Premiere: June 28, 1918, National Theatre Munich)
- Swallow wedding ( operetta, text: Pordes -Milo, premiere: January 28, 1921 Theatre of the West, Berlin)
- The postmistress ( operetta, text: August Neidhart, Premiere: February 3, 1921 in the Central-Theater, Berlin)
- The king's neighbor ( Singspiel, Text: Fritz Grünbaum and Wilhelm Sterk, Premiere: April 15, 1923, Wallner - Theater, Berlin )
- The golden mill ( Singspiel, text: Wilhelm Sterk, partly by Carl Costa, 1936 premiered in Olten, Switzerland, as Jessel was not allowed to be played in Germany )
- Meeting Tegernsee ( operetta, text: Aksel Lund and Erik Radolf, Premiere: 12 April 2009 at the Stadttheater Neuburg on the Danube by the Neuburger folk theater eV)