Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880) is primarily represented in opera’s “standard repertory” by Les contes d’Hoffmann, but he made his name in operetta (opérette), a form which came into its own in mid-19th century Paris in large part due to Offenbach’s own contributions. Dating from 1873, Pomme d’Api is a one-act comic operetta from the latter part of his career, an intimate domestic rom-com for soprano, baritone and tenor. This particular production for Hong Kong’s French May interpolates two additional arias, “À tout les metiers” from Pépito (1853) and “Ah, quel diner” from La Périchole (1868).
Originally set in 1870s Paris, the action was moved to Hong Kong, close to a century later. Catherine, known as “Apple”, the apple of everyone’s eye, has just been engaged as a chambermaid by a Vertigo Rabastens, an expat French bachelor “of a certain age” who has an eye for the ladies. Unbeknownst to him, however, she is the recently abandoned girlfriend of his chauffeur Gustave, forced to break it off by his employer. Gustave, distressed beyond measure at having “Apple” suddenly show up at his place of employment, tries to win her back but finds himself in romantic competition with his boss.
It all ends happily—and with an unforgettably memorable finale (“Un, deux, trois …”) that gives Offenbach’s famous “Can-can” a run for it’s money—with a warning from Catherine that Gustave had better behave better in future.
The performance on 8 June 2022 at Hong Kong’s City Hall featured Etta Fung as Catherine, Chen Yong as Gustave and Isaac Droscha as Rabastens, with Wei-en Hsu at the piano.