Pomme d’Api; Sur un volcan
Magali Leger, Florian Laconi, Marc Barrard; Kölner Akademie/Michael Alexander Willens
CPO 555 268-2 82:23 mins
Composed in the 1870s, Pomme d’Api is a gem, Offenbach unstinting with the melodies he lavished on this slight tale: Gustave competes with his old goat of an uncle for a pretty girl who is the ‘Pomme’ of both their eyes. There’s a positively Mozartian trio for the three characters with a melting slow central section and Offenbach’s gifts as an orchestrator shine through the pearl of an overture.
Sur un volcan is an earlier piece, from 1855, and possibly a rescue job for a pair of friends. It’s an old Offenbach story, two men in love with same girl, French sailors posted to Ireland in the Napoleonic period and with a bizarre twist in the plot. The two seadogs are guarding a keg of gunpowder that if ignited will fire up a volcano deep below Dublin. If the music, and perhaps the characterisation, lack the fluency of Pomme d’Api, there’s the requisite sparkle in the score.
The singers share both works and while one might have preferred Gustave sung as the original breeches role rather than by a tenor, Florian Laconi is a passable substitute. Marc Barrard is a tad dry vocally as the two older men, and Magali Léger finishes better than she begins. Easing herself into both women’s roles the tone softens and she gets the measure of Offenbach’s endlessly varied vocal lines. However, it’s the conductor Michael Alexander Willens who wins the laurels for rescuing Sur un volcan from the archives and conducting both operas with unabashed brio.