Jacques Offenbach’s “Pomme d’Api” in Guangzhou: a gallery

Baritone Song Luoyan, pianist Chen Yiyan, tenor Lin Junliang and soprano Xing Xinyuan Baritone Song Luoyan, pianist Chen Yiyan, tenor Lin Junliang and soprano Xing Xinyuan

On the work’s 150th anniversary, Jacques Offenbach’s Pomme d’Api premiered in an extended version at the Guangzhou Opera House on 30 June 2023 as part of the Festival Croisements.

Dating from 1873, Pomme d’Api is a one-act comic operetta from the latter part of Offenbach’s career, an intimate domestic rom-com for soprano, baritone and tenor. Catherine, known as “Apple”, the apple of everyone’s eye, has just been engaged as a chambermaid by a Vertigo Rabastens, a bachelor “of a certain age” who has an eye for the ladies. Unbeknownst to him, however, she is the recently abandoned girlfriend of his nephew Gustave, forced to break it off by his uncle. 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.

The new staging has a small local opera company producing Pomme d’Api. Their story parallels the story of the opera they are performing: the founder and baritone has just fired his soprano, but has engaged a new one, fresh off a non-operatic nightclub gig, who just happens to be the tenor’s girlfriend. And he doesn’t approve.

This new production features a new arrangement for chamber ensemble by Marco Iannelli, the addition of six additional selections from two other Offenbach operettas, La Périchole and Pépito, and new Chinese dialogue.

The run of three performances featured sopranos Wang Xiaoqing and Xing Xinyuan as Catherine (Pomme d’Api), baritones Zhai Xiaohan and Song Luoyan as Rabastens and tenors Lu Yafei and Lin Junliang as Gustave. Zheng Honghao conducted and with Chen Yiyan as the pianist. A second run has been scheduled for October.