Barkouf – OFFENBACH – Opernhaus Zürich

Opernhaus Zurich
Barkouf - OFFENBACH - Opernhaus Zürich | Jérémie Rhorer

Musical Director, Jérémie Rhorer


Stage Director, Max Hopp 


Bababeck, Marcel Beekman

Le Grand Mogul, Andreas Hörl

Saëb, Mingjie Lei

Kaliboul, lain Milne

Maïma, Branda Rae

Balkis, Rachael Wilson

Périzade, Siena Licht Miller

Erzähler, André Jung


Zürich Philharmonie Orchestra

Opernhaus Zürich Choir


Offenbach, Barkouf


« The title itself evokes growls and woofs, and that’s no mistake. To wit: there really is a dog behind the name «Barkouf». And not only that, but this quadruped oversees the city of Lahore. He was appointed by the Great Mogul himself, the «ruler of all rulers, star of all stars», in an attempt to humiliate his unpleasantly rebellious people. A dog in charge! Such an outrageous provocation could only have come from a cheeky artistic genius the likes of Jacques Offenbach, who made his compositional debut at the Opéra Comique in Paris with this work in 1860. No wonder, then, that the censors in the capital of the Second French Empire cursed and initially condemned this «strange work, which constitutes an incessant mockery of the highest authority of our time and our country». What’s less shocking is that, in this work, the actual reins of power are held by a woman. Barkouf’s former owner Maïma, a young flower vendor, think she’s lost her dog, but finds him sitting on the throne. Grand Vizier Bababeck appoints her as translator for the new head of state. It’s an attempt to impose his own rule, but Maïma seizes the moment and, acting as Barkouf’s mouthpiece, grants generous pardons and tax cuts. While the people rejoice, there’s conspiratorial trouble afoot…
None of Offenbach’s works are as politically biting as this one. It resurfaced only recently in an archive belonging to Offenbach’s descendants. Musically speaking, Barkouf is a true bijou. It oscillates between grand opera and operetta, thrilling with its sprightly music, but also charmingly playing with the bel canto melodiousness of a Donizetti or Rossini. The fact that Offenbach occasionally looked to his polar opposite Richard Wagner is revealed by the score’s bold harmonic turns.
The production for this appealing Offenbach discovery lies in the hands of German director and actor Max Hopp. French conductor Jérémie Rhorer will guide the evening’s musical progression. American soprano Benda Rae – no stranger to Zurich audiences – bows as Maïma, while Rachael Wilson makes her house debut as Balkis, and Dutchman Marcel Beekman likewise debuts at the Opernhaus Zürich as Bababeck. »

Opernhaus Zurich