By the end of the 1860s, the decade of Offenbach's most brilliant successes -- La belle Hélène (1864), La Vie parisienne (1866), La Grande-Duchesse de Gérolstein (1867) -- the public's taste for satire had given way to a new vogue for romance, which Offenbach answered in La Périchole (1868). But in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 -- the bombardment of Paris, the spectacle of Prussian troops marching down the Champs-Elysées in March 1871 -- and the horrors of the Paris Commune, the sharp satire laced with carefree giddiness, which had been Offenbach's stock-in-trade, was decisively out of fashion as life resumed in the capital. Saint-Saëns, who had been one of Offenbach's most discriminating admirers, was busy organizing, with Franck, Lalo, and Fauré, the Société Nationale de Musique (established on February 25, 1871) to promote chamber and symphonic music beneath the proud motto Ars Gallica. Offenbach had taken refuge from the war in Italy, Vienna, and London. Returning to Paris in the summer of 1871, he found the aristocracy that had winked at and supported his productions replaced by a government of sober, indifferent, middle-class bureaucrats. Meanwhile, serious rivals, such as Johann Strauss II, Suppé, and Lecocq, were making a broadening public appeal. Lecocq's La fille de Madame Angot appeared in 1872, while Giroflé-Girofla was produced in 1874 -- sandwiching Offenbach's Pomme d'api, which opened at the Théâtre de la Renaissance on September 4, 1873. Strauss' Die Fledermaus appeared the following year, while the first Gilbert and Sullivan collaboration, Thespis, was heard in 1871, though not until 1875 did Trial by Jury inaugurate the spate of wildly popular operettas by that team. A new world was taking shape, and in an increasingly international market -- Pomme d'api opened in London's Gaiety as The Love Apple on September 24, 1874, and at Vienna's Theater an der Wien as Nesthäkchen on November 22, 1877 -- these things mattered. Part of Offenbach's response was to become, again, the manager of his own theater -- on June 1, 1873, he assumed the management of the Théâtre de la Gaîté -- which he completely remodeled at enormous expense, to pay for a revival of Orphée aux Enfers, likewise refurbished with new characters, scenes, and ballet music to make a stunning box-office success. Pomme d'api represents the other arm of Offenbach's strategy -- a kinder, gentler one-act operetta in which farce gives way to sentimental musical comedy for which the composer found music of great charm, albeit set off by a finale of inspired ribaldry.
Description by Adrian Corleonis
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